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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Distribution and Genetic Structure of Fucus distichus Linnaeus 1953 (formerly F. gardneri) within Central San Francisco Bay


Fucus distichus, a rockweed common to the mid-intertidal shoreline within the San Francisco Estuary (previously known as F. gardneri), was injured during the Cosco Busan oil spill in November 2007 and subsequent clean-up actions. Restoration planning activities are underway to help recover F. distichus at sites within central San Francisco Bay where damage occurred. As a first step, we conducted shoreline surveys during the summers of 2012–2013 to map the occurrence of this rockweed. Of the 151.73 km of rocky shoreline within the central bay, F. distichus covered 32.16 km of shoreline. The alga generally occurred in narrow bands but formed expansive beds at locations with natural, flat bedrock benches. We also observed F. distichus on artificial substrata such as seawalls and riprap, but not on pilings. Samples of F. distichus from 11 sites throughout the central / east San Francisco Bay were genetically analyzed (microsatellite genotyping). The populations analyzed (1) had low genetic diversity, (2) the frequency of homozygotes was higher than expected (suggesting high inbreeding), and (3) also displayed geographic population structure, in part driven by very small differences in the midst of extremely low within-population genetic diversity. However, these genetic data do not raise concerns for restoration methods in terms of choosing donor populations and mixing F. distichus from different sites within the central bay. The choice of donor populations should be based on practical criteria for effective restoration; individuals will nonetheless be taken from locations as nearby to donor sites as possible. Various locations throughout the central San Francisco Bay are composed of cobble or small riprap that are populated with F. distichus, which could provide efficient means of translocating rockweed for future restoration activities.

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