Low genetic diversity in a marine reserve: Re-evaluating diversity criteria in reserve design

James John Bell, B. Okamura

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Citations (SciVal)


Little consideration has been given to the genetic composition of populations associated with marine reserves, as reserve designation is generally to protect specific species, communities or habitats. Nevertheless, it is important to conserve genetic diversity since it provides the raw material for the maintenance of species diversity over longer, evolutionary time-scales and may also confer the basis for adaptation to environmental change. Many current marine reserves are small in size and isolated to some degree (e.g. sea loughs and offshore islands). While such features enable easier management, they may have important implications for the genetic structure of protected populations, the ability of populations to recover from local catastrophes and the potential for marine reserves to act as sources of propagules for surrounding areas. Here, we present a case study demonstrating genetic differentiation, isolation, inbreeding and reduced genetic diversity in populations of the dogwhelk Nucella lapillus in Lough Hyne Marine Nature Reserve (an isolated sea lough in southern Ireland), compared with populations on the local adjacent open coast and populations in England, Wales and France. Our study demonstrates that this sea lough is isolated from open coast populations, and highlights that there may be long-term genetic consequences of selecting reserves on the basis of isolation and ease of protection. Keywords:
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1067-1074
Number of pages8
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1567
Publication statusPublished - 22 May 2005


  • Nucella
  • isolation
  • marine reserves
  • genetic diversity
  • gene flow


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