Investigators: S. Visram, D. Obura (CORDIO, Kenya); R. Moothien (UOM, Mauritius); S. Said (IMS, Zanzibar); M. Grahn (Sweden)
MAP OF STUDY SITES
Click on the white-marked areas to see a close-up on the study sites.
The genetic structure of populations along geographical gradients can provide a method for the assessment of long-term connectivity between coastal systems and its implications for the design of networks of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and the impact of historical and current ecological factors that shape current population genetic structure. The establishment MPAs is by now a well documented strategy for the preservation and sustainable use of fisheries and other marine resources. The ecological criteria for choosing areas to protect include high levels of biodiversity at the ecosystem and species level as well as on the genetic level. Obviously the success of such a system is dependent on the availability of background information describing how populations are linked, or connected. It is a shared goal of the countries of coastal Eastern Africa to design and establish an ecologically representative network of MPAs. This has been articulated for example during strategic planning for the multi-institutional Eastern African Marine Ecoregion (EAME) programme with similar objectives for the sister ecoregion for the islands, the Western Indian Ocean Islands Marine Ecoregion (WIOMER).
The overall goal of the project is to assess the population genetic structure of reef associated fish species and reef building hard corals along the Eastern seaboard of Africa and islands of the Western Indian ocean with the purpose of providing reliable background data pertaining to the level of connectivity across the region and between protected and unprotected reefs. This project will compare the genetic differences of targeted marine organisms (corals and fishes) in MPA and non-MPA sites along the Eastern Africa coast and island groups in the Western Indian Ocean. The main framework for this project is to estimate the genetic variation at different geographical sites by molecular genetic markers in order to be able to assign the genetic origin of individual fish or coral specimens as part of the regional dataset compiled during the project.
The increasing simplicity of PCR-based methods means that capacity can be built up in the region so that at the end of the project Principal Investigators have sufficient experience and materials to continue this work in-situ. Initially PCR facilities at CORDIO East Africa will be used with full laboratory backup from Södertörns University College where needed, with capacity building at facilities at the other locations in the project. It is envisaged that through this proposed project, present and ongoing research results from Kenya and ongoing research within the EU funded TRANSMAP programme can be connected to provide an unbroken study into population genetic structures of several key species along the coast, thus providing data regarding source and sink reefs, levels of genetic variability and indications of changes in genetic structures caused by fishing or unsustainable use of resources.
More broadly, the research proposed herein builds directly on the recent and ongoing initiatives to develop national MPA networks in the region. This in turn will contribute in a major degree to the fulfillment of the vision of a functional and representative regional MPA network for Eastern Africa.