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  1. Abstract

    The demographic history of a population is important for conservation and evolution, but this history is unknown for many populations. Methods that use genomic data have been developed to infer demography, but they can be challenging to implement and interpret, particularly for large populations. Thus, understanding if and when genetic estimates of demography correspond to true population history is important for assessing the performance of these genetic methods. Here, we used double‐digest restriction‐site associated DNA (ddRAD) sequencing data from archived collections of larval summer flounder (Paralichthys dentatus,n = 279) from three cohorts (1994–1995, 1997–1998 and 2008–2009) along the U.S. East coast to examine how contemporary effective population size and genetic diversity responded to changes in abundance in a natural population. Despite little to no detectable change in genetic diversity, coalescent‐based demographic modelling from site frequency spectra revealed that summer flounder effective population size declined dramatically in the early 1980s. The timing and direction of change corresponded well with the observed decline in spawning stock census abundance in the late 1980s from independent fish surveys. Census abundance subsequently recovered and achieved the prebottleneck size. Effective population size also grew following the bottleneck. Our results for summer flounder demonstrate that genetic sampling and site frequency spectra can be useful for detecting population dynamics, even in species with large effective sizes.

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  2. Abstract

    Over heterogeneous landscapes, organisms and energy move across ecological boundaries and this can have profound effects on overall ecosystem functioning. Both abiotic and biotic factors along habitat boundaries may facilitate or impede key species interactions that drive these energy flows—especially along the land–sea interface. We synthesized the literature detailing estuarine fish diets and habitat characteristics of salt marshes from U.S. East and Gulf coasts to determine patterns and drivers of cross‐boundary trophic transfers at the land–sea interface. Notably, marsh‐platform species (i.e., killifishes, fiddler crabs) appear virtually absent in the diets of transient estuarine fishes in the Gulf of Mexico, while along the South Atlantic and Mid‐Atlantic Bights, marsh‐platform species appear regularly in the diets of many transient estuarine fishes. Tidal amplitude varied across these three biogeographic regions and likely regulates the availability of marsh‐platform species to transient estuarine fishes via both access to the marsh surface for marine predators and emergence of marsh‐resident prey into the adjacent estuary (i.e., higher tidal amplitude increases predator–prey encounter rates). Surprisingly, marsh shoot density was positively correlated with the presence of marsh‐platform species in the diet, but this pattern appears to be mediated by increased tidal amplitude, suggesting the mode and periodicity of abiotic cycles drive diet structure of transient estuarine fishes more so than local habitat structural complexity. Subsequently, these processes likely influence the degree to which “trophic relay” moves energy from the marsh toward the open estuary. Understanding the dynamics that determine energy flows, spatial subsidies, and ultimately, ecosystem‐level productivity, is essential for implementation of holistic ecosystem‐based approaches to conserve and manage complex landscape mosaics.

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  3. Sills, Jennifer (Ed.)
  4. Abstract

    Dispersal sets the fundamental scales of ecological and evolutionary dynamics and has important implications for population persistence. Patterns of marine dispersal remain poorly understood, partly because dispersal may vary through time and often homogenizes allele frequencies. However, combining multiple types of natural tags can provide more precise dispersal estimates, and biological collections can help to reconstruct dispersal patterns through time. We used single nucleotide polymorphism genotypes and otolith core microchemistry from archived collections of larval summer flounder (Paralichthys dentatus,n = 411) captured between 1989 and 2012 at five locations along the US East coast to reconstruct dispersal patterns through time. Neither genotypes nor otolith microchemistry alone were sufficient to identify the source of larval fish. However, microchemistry identified clusters of larvae (n = 3–33 larvae per cluster) that originated in the same location, and genetic assignment of clusters could be made with substantially more confidence. We found that most larvae probably originated near a biogeographical break (Cape Hatteras) and that larvae were transported in both directions across this break. Larval sources did not shift north through time, despite the northward shift of adult populations in recent decades. Our novel approach demonstrates that summer flounder dispersal is widespread throughout their range, on both intra‐ and intergenerational timescales, and may be a particularly important process for synchronizing population dynamics and maintaining genetic diversity during an era of rapid environmental change. Broadly, our results reveal the value of archived collections and of combining multiple natural tags to understand the magnitude and directionality of dispersal in species with extensive gene flow.

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