Zi-Min Hu

and 10 more

Seagrasses play a vital role in structuring coastal marine ecosystems, but their distributional range and genetic diversity have declined rapidly over the past decades. In order to improve conservation of seagrass species, it is important to predict how climate change may impact their ranges. Such predictions are typically made with correlative species distribution models (SDMs), which can estimate a species’ potential distribution under present and future climatic scenarios given species’ presence data and climatic predictor variables. However, these models are typically constructed with species-level data, and thus ignore intraspecific genetic variability of populations that potentially have adaptations to heterogeneous climatic conditions. Here, we explore the link between intraspecific adaptation and niche differentiation in Thalassia hemprichii, a seagrass broadly distributed in the tropical Indo-Pacific Ocean and a crucial provider of habitat for numerous marine species. Using microsatellite-based genotyping, we identified two distinct phylogeographical lineages within the nominal species and found an intermediate level of differentiation in their multidimensional environmental niches, suggesting the possibility for local adaptation. We then compared projections of the species’ habitat suitability under climate change scenarios using species-level and lineage-level SDMs. In the Central Tropical Indo-Pacific region, both models predicted considerable range contraction in the future, but the lineage-level model predicted more severe habitat loss. The two modelling approaches predicted opposite pattern in habitat change in the Western Tropical Indo-Pacific region. Our results highlight the necessity of conserving distinct populations and genetic pools under climate change and have important implications for guiding future management of seagrasses.