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UMD studies mangrove genetic diversity in Africa to conserve centers of biodiversity

UMD studies mangrove genetic diversity in Africa to conserve centers of biodiversity

Collaborative study shows how currents of the Western Indian Ocean create both distinct and related populations for conservation

In collaboration with researchers at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, a University of Maryland (UMD) postdoctoral researcher recently co-published a large-scale study examining the genetic diversity of mangroves over more than 1,800 miles of coastline in the Western Indian Ocean, including Eastern Africa and several islands. While the mangroves of Asia, Australia, and the Americas have been more extensively studied, little work has been done classifying and highlighting genetic diversity in African mangrove populations for conservation. Similar to other wetlands, mangrove trees like the species studied in the new paper in Scientific Reports (Rhizophora mucronata) create habitats for myriad animal and plant life, acting as hubs of biodiversity while also economically supporting many local communities. This work showcases how oceanic currents create both connectivity and barriers between mangrove populations, with important implications for how to protect these ecosystems.

"Whenever I get asked about mangroves, I always say they are my happy place," says Magdalene Ngeve, postdoctoral researcher at UMD in Maile Neel's lab (professor in the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture and Department of Entomology). "They are very fascinating systems to work with. When I went to do my field work for my Master's thesis and got to experience mangroves, be close to the trees, and see how much biodiversity they host, I instantly fell in love and knew this is what I should be studying."

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