Steven W. J. Canty, Graeme Fox, Jennifer K. Rowntree & Richard F. Preziosi

Abstract

Amongst the global decline of coral reefs, hope spots such as Cordelia Bank in Honduras, have been identified. This site contains dense, remnant thickets of the endangered species Acropora cervicornis, which local managers and conservation organizations view as a potential source population for coral restoration projects. The aim of this study was to determine the genetic diversity of colonies across three banks within the protected area. We identified low genetic diversity (FST = 0.02) across the three banks, and genetic similarity of colonies ranged from 91.3 to 95.8% between the banks. Clonality rates were approximately 30% across the three banks, however, each genotype identified was unique to each bank. Despite the low genetic diversity, subtle genetic differences within and among banks were demonstrated, and these dense thickets were shown not to be comprised of a single or a few genotypes. The presence of multiple genotypes suggests A. cervicornis colonies from these banks could be used to maintain and enhance genetic diversity in restoration projects. Management of hope spots, such as Cordelia Bank, and the incorporation of genetic information into restoration projects to ensure genetic diversity within out-planted populations, will be critical in the ongoing challenge of conserving and preserving coral reefs.

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https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-021-83112-4

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