The Seaconnect project (2014 - 2017) aims to optimize the network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in response to global change by combining studies of genetic connectivity and biophysical models.

It is funded by the Total Foundation.

It focuses on two exploited fish species in the Mediterranean Sea: the striped red mullet (Mullus surmuletus) and the white seabream (Diplodus sargus). It will develop Single Nucleotides Polymorphims (SNPs) markers using genotyping sequencing in order to estimate genetic connectivity at the scale of the Mediteranean sea for both species.

At present, we still lack the large-scale genetic data and dispersal models necessary to define optimal spatial design of MPA networks, and evaluate the effects of climate change. As more MPA networks are implemented worldwide, it is crucial to establish guidelines for their spatial design that are based in knowledge of connectivity.

In the Seaconnect project, we combine connectivity modeling and new genomic tools to:

  1. Estimate genetic connectivity for two exploited coastal fish species.

  2. Compare alternative scenarios of potential impacts of future climate change and fishing pressure on genetic connectivity.

We will use the results to assess the effectiveness of current MPA networks and to design future MPAs with spatial configurations that reflect connectivity criteria. Our research is thus relevant for biodiversity protection and restocking strategies; as such, it has the potential to guide decision-making concerning the design of MPA networks that will be resilient to global environment change.

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