High genetic diversity and strong differentiation in dramatically fluctuating populations of Zostera japonica (Zosteraceae): Implication for conservation

Kai JIANG, Po Keung Eric TSANG, Na-Na XU, Xiao-Yong CHEN

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Aims: Seagrasses provide a variety of ecosystem goods and services, but they are subjected to frequently anthropogenic disturbances. In this study, we genotyped samples collected from Zostera japonica meadows with dramatic fluctuations in the area in order to understand the distribution of genetic variation within and among populations.
Methods: We collected samples from eight extant populations along coastal areas of southern China. Ten polymorphic microsatellites were adopted to genotype the samples. Parameters of genetic diversity and differentiation were calculated with general software.
Important Findings: High levels of genetic diversity were found in the studied populations, suggesting that the effective population size has not decreased significantly, which was supported by no signs of recent bottlenecks. High genetic diversity reflects an important role of sexual seedling recruitment in Z. japonica populations. We found a significant relationship between genetic differentiation and the shortest sea surface distance of populations, suggesting that ocean currents play a critical role in shaping the genetic structure of Z. japonica populations. STRUCTURE software analysis clustered the eight populations into two groups: western and eastern populations separated by the Qiongzhou Strait/Leizhou Peninsula, hinting that there was very limited gene flow through the narrow strait in this marine plant. Four populations had high contribution diversity and, thus, high priority for in situ conservation. Copyright © 2017 The Author. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Botanical Society of China.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)789-797
JournalJournal of Plant Ecology
Issue number5
Early online dateSep 2017
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2018


genetic differentiation
genetic variation
effective population size
genetic structure
gene flow
sea surface
genetic diversity
water currents


Jiang, K., Tsang, P.-K. E., Xu, N.-N., & Chen, X.-Y. (2018). High genetic diversity and strong differentiation in dramatically fluctuating populations of Zostera japonica (Zosteraceae): Implication for conservation. Journal of Plant Ecology, 11(5), 789-797. doi: 10.1093/jpe/rtx053


  • Seagrass
  • Zostera japonica
  • Genetic diversity
  • Genetic differentiation
  • Microsatellites