Restoring resilient mangroves – can consideration of genetic diversity improve success?


Mangrove forests are under threat. Despite their importance in delivering crucial ecosystem services through provision of nursery grounds for fisheries, coastal protection and carbon sequestration, the extent of mangrove habitat is in decline. In recent years, restoration and management activities have sought, and sometimes succeeded, to reverse habitat loss. Focusing on increasing mangrove habitat is important, but does not guarantee long term establishment of functioning ecosystems. In order for populations to be resilient to future environmental change, they must also harbour sufficient genetic diversity to facilitate adaptation. While population genetic diversity has been documented for a number of key mangrove species, we do not yet know what factors influence levels of genetic diversity, or how mangroves are responding to the current pressures they face. We also do not have a good idea about the impact of restoration activities on mangrove population genetic diversity. This lack of information hampers attempts to ensure that mangrove forests remain viable habitats into the future. 
<p>A mangrove swamp or forest<br></p>


The project will seek to understand the natural and anthropogenic factors driving patterns of global population genetic diversity in mangroves; determine the effect of previous restoration projects on mangrove population genetic diversity and structure; and determine the effect of existing population genetic diversity on mangrove response to future climate change. This will be achieved through systematic reviews and meta analyses, lab based molecular ecology and population genetics, and common garden experiments.

Student training and experience

We are looking for a candidate with a degree in Biological or Ecological Sciences (or similar) and an interest and enthusiasm for tropical coastal ecosystems. Experience in molecular or quantitative genetics techniques would be advantageous, as would a working knowledge of the R statistical framework. Project specific training will be provided in undertaking systematic reviews and meta-analyses, molecular ecology, population genetic analysis and in the design and execution of quantitative genetic common garden experiments alongside more general training in academic research skills (scientific writing, data analysis in R, GIS). There will be opportunities for international collaboration, and influencing wider policy and restoration initiatives, through interaction with project partners and local NGOs. There are further opportunities for field work if additional funding is secured. 

Key papers by supervisory team

1.    Kennedy J.K, Preziosi R.F., Rowntree J.K., Feller I.C. (2020). Is the central-marginal hypothesis a general rule? Evidence from three distributions of an expanding mangrove species, Avicennia germinans (L.) Molecular Ecology. 29: 704-719; 
2.    Canty S.W.J, Kennedy J.P., Fox G., Matterson K., González V.L., Núñez-Vallecillo M.L., Preziosi R.F., Rowntree J.K. (2022) Mangrove diversity is more than fringe deep. Scientific Reports. 12:1695
3.    Kennedy J.P., Johnson G.N., Preziosi R.F., Rowntree J.K. (2022) Genetically-based trait shifts at an expanding mangrove range margin. Hydrobiologia. 849:1777-1794.