Genomic patterns in Acropora cervicornis show extensive population structure and variable genetic diversity

Crawford Drury, Stephanie Schopmeyer, Elizabeth Goergen, Erich Bartels, Ken Nedimyer, Meaghan Johnson, Kerry Maxwell, Victor Galvan, Carrie Manfrino, Diego Lirman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Threatened Caribbean coral communities can benefit from high-resolution genetic data used to inform management and conservation action. We use Genotyping by Sequencing (GBS) to investigate genetic patterns in the threatened coral, Acropora cervicornis, across the Florida Reef Tract (FRT) and the western Caribbean. Results show extensive population structure at regional scales and resolve previously unknown structure within the FRT. Different regions also exhibit up to threefold differences in genetic diversity (He), suggesting targeted management based on the goals and resources of each population is needed. Patterns of genetic diversity have a strong spatial component, and our results show Broward and the Lower Keys are among the most diverse populations in Florida. The genetic diversity of Caribbean staghorn coral is concentrated within populations and within individual reefs (AMOVA), highlighting the complex mosaic of population structure. This variance structure is similar over regional and local scales, which suggests that in situ nurseries are adequately capturing natural patterns of diversity, representing a resource that can replicate the average diversity of wild assemblages, serving to increase intraspecific diversity and potentially leading to improved biodiversity and ecosystem function. Results presented here can be translated into specific goals for the recovery of A. cervicornis, including active focus on low diversity areas, protection of high diversity and connectivity, and practical thresholds for responsible restoration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6188-6200
Number of pages13
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number16
StatePublished - Aug 2017


  • Acropora cervicornis
  • Florida Reef Tract
  • Next Generation Sequencing
  • conservation genetics
  • ecological restoration
  • intraspecific diversity
  • population genetics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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