Considering reefscape configuration and composition in biophysical models advance seascape genetics

PLoS One. 2017 May 25;12(5):e0178239. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0178239. eCollection 2017.


Previous seascape genetics studies have emphasized the role of ocean currents and geographic distances to explain the genetic structure of marine species, but the role of benthic habitat has been more rarely considered. Here, we compared the population genetic structure observed in West Pacific giant clam populations against model simulations that accounted habitat composition and configuration, geographical distance, and oceanic currents. Dispersal determined by geographical distance provided a modelled genetic structure in better agreement with the observations than dispersal by oceanic currents, possibly due to insufficient spatial resolution of available oceanographic and coastal circulation models. Considering both habitat composition and configuration significantly improved the match between simulated and observed genetic structures. This study emphasizes the importance of a reefscape genetics approach to population ecology, evolution and conservation in the sea.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Aquatic Organisms / genetics*
  • Aquatic Organisms / physiology
  • Bivalvia / genetics*
  • Bivalvia / physiology
  • Coral Reefs*
  • Demography
  • Ecosystem
  • Models, Biological
  • New Caledonia
  • Oceans and Seas
  • Vanuatu

Grants and funding

This work is part of SVW and JT PhD theses, supported by a fellowship from “Ministère de l’Enseignement Supérieur et de la Recherche” to Université de la Polynésie française. Genetic analyses were co-funded by the BeN-Co project (ZONECO program, New Caledonia, and the TriMax project (LabEx CORAIL, Agence Nationale de la Recherche, Sampling was conducted during cruises COBELO ( and BIBELOT ( on board RV Alis, and during the New Caledonia leg of the Global Reef Expedition of the Khaled Bin Sultan Living Ocean Foundation, on board RV Golden Shadow (