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Keywords:

  • Kriging;
  • meadow structure;
  • Posidonia oceanica;
  • shoot density;
  • genetic diversity

Abstract

The meadows of the Mediterranean endemic seagrass Posidonia oceanica exhibit relatively high variations of structural and biometric features at various spatial scales. An investigation performed in 1992 in the meadow off Lacco Ameno (Island of Ischia, Gulf of Naples, Italy) detected peculiar spatial patterns of plant distribution, characterized by nestlike structures with radially increasing or decreasing shoot densities. Eight years later (2000), geo-referenced collections at selected points were repeated to trace the temporal variations of shoot density and investigate the recurrence of the density cores previously detected. In addition, shoots for molecular analyses were collected to check the hypothesis that nestlike patterns exhibit highest levels of genetic variability, due to the confluence of several genetically distinct stolons. The 2000 survey confirmed the presence of the main density cores detected in 1992, although their spatial distribution was slightly shifted and a general decrease of spatial anisotropy was observed, probably due to an increased disturbance, mainly due to pleasure boat anchoring. Patterns of genetic diversity showed a more complex picture, well related to the shoot density spatial pattern, especially when compared with the previous 1992 survey. Patterns of genetic diversity confirmed our previous hypotheses on the genesis of shoot density cores, suggesting they are produced over long time, due to a slow stolonization process and a convergence of different genotypes. Regression of the meadow and decrease of density may lead, in short periods, to a homogenization of the density patterns, while genetic diversity cores represent a long-term ‘memory’ of their previous distribution.