Reconsidering connectivity in the sub-Antarctic

Katherine L Moon, Steven L Chown, Ceridwen I. Fraser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Extreme and remote environments provide useful settings to test ideas about the ecological and evolutionary drivers of biological diversity. In the sub-Antarctic, isolation by geographic, geological and glaciological processes has long been thought to underpin patterns in the region's terrestrial and marine diversity. Molecular studies using increasingly high-resolution data are, however, challenging this perspective, demonstrating that many taxa disperse among distant sub-Antarctic landmasses. Here, we reconsider connectivity in the sub-Antarctic region, identifying which taxa are relatively isolated, which are well connected, and the scales across which this connectivity occurs in both terrestrial and marine systems. Although many organisms show evidence of occasional long-distance, trans-oceanic dispersal, these events are often insufficient to maintain gene flow across the region. Species that do show evidence of connectivity across large distances include both active dispersers and more sedentary species. Overall, connectivity patterns in the sub-Antarctic at intra- and inter-island scales are highly complex, influenced by life-history traits and local dynamics such as relative dispersal capacity and propagule pressure, natal philopatry, feeding associations, the extent of human exploitation, past climate cycles, contemporary climate, and physical barriers to movement. An increasing use of molecular data - particularly genomic data sets that can reveal fine-scale patterns - and more effective international collaboration and communication that facilitates integration of data from across the sub-Antarctic, are providing fresh insights into the processes driving patterns of diversity in the region. These insights offer a platform for assessing the ways in which changing dispersal mechanisms, such as through increasing human activity and changes to wind and ocean circulation, may alter sub-Antarctic biodiversity patterns in the future.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2164-2181
Number of pages18
JournalBiological Reviews
Volume92
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Keywords

  • Climate change
  • Gene flow
  • Invasive species
  • Island model
  • Metapopulation
  • Next-generation sequencing
  • Phylogeography
  • Single nucleotide polymorphism

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