The research, published in the prestigious Scientific Report Magazine, revealed critical sectors in relation to the genetic diversity of the algae Macrocystis pyrifera.
With the aim of knowing how changes in marine biodiversity are structured, in particular of the huiro or sargassum (Macrocystis pyrifera,) a group of Chilean and foreign researchers published an investigation in the prestigious Scientific Report Magazine of the Nature publishing group.
The work was led by Jorge Assis, academic at the Faculty of Bioscience and Aquaculture, Nord Universitet, Bodø, Norway, and Filipe Alberto, academic at the Department of Biological Sciences, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, United States. In addition, it had the participation of Erasmo Macaya-Horta, phycologist from the Center for Dynamic Research of High Latitude Marine Ecosystems (IDEAL) of the Austral University of Chile (IDEAL), academic from the University of Concepción (UdeC) and director of the Laboratory of Algal Studies, (AlgaLAB).
The objective of the study was to fill this gap in knowledge regarding the distribution of species in the past using as a model one of the few brown algae that have a wide global distribution: the floater or sargassum (Macrocystis pyrifera.) In this way, we sought to know if the current geographic range and its genetic variability would be explained by past climate changes, such as the advance of ice sheets and changes in ocean temperature, among others.
“By comparing the genetic diversity of the floater huiro from different sites in both hemispheres, and also modeling its distribution since the last glacial maximum, approximately 20 thousand years ago, it was found that temperature has played an important role in the distribution of the alga, as well as oceanographic currents. At the same time, the post-glaciation expansions left an important mark on its genetic diversity, with an approximate reduction of 40%,” explains Erasmo Macaya about the research.
This study shows critical sectors in relation to the genetic diversity of the algae, among which California and Peru present high diversity. According to the publication, these areas should be a priority in conservation, because they were a refuge for the species when there were unfavorable climatic events.
Long-distance dispersal through detached floating algae was also found to be crucial in the colonization of habitats that were vacated after glacial events. “Understanding the way in which current populations are distributed and structured based on past changes allows us to a certain extent to predict what may happen in future scenarios. We must also consider that Macrocystis pyrifera is a species with tremendous ecological importance, so its presence or absence is also relevant for hundreds of species that depend directly or indirectly on this brown alga,” explains the IDEAL Center researcher.
“For the care and conservation of these giant algae and the forests they form, it is therefore crucial to protect areas of high molecular diversity, but also to pay close attention to areas of low latitudes where climatic events can drastically reduce genetic diversity,” concludes Erasmo Macaya.
To access the study, click here.