Network analysis identifies weak and strong links in a metapopulation system

A.F. Rozenfeld, S. Arnaud-Haond, E. Hernandez-Garcia, V.M. Eguiluz, E.A. Serrao, Carlos Duarte

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

135 Citations (Scopus)


The identification of key populations shaping the structure and connectivity of metapopulation systems is a major challenge in population ecology. The use of molecular markers in the theoretical framework of population genetics has allowed great advances in this field, but the prime question of quantifying the role of each population in the system remains unresolved. Furthermore, the use and interpretation of classical methods are still bounded by the need for a priori information and underlying assumptions that are seldom respected in natural systems. Network theory was applied to map the genetic structure in a metapopulation system by using microsatellite data from populations of a threatened seagrass, Posidonia oceanica, across its whole geographical range. The network approach, free from a priori assumptions and from the usual underlying hypotheses required for the interpretation of classical analyses, allows both the straightforward characterization of hierarchical population structure and the detection of populations acting as hubs critical for relaying gene flow or sustaining the metapopulation system. This development opens perspectives in ecology and evolution in general, particularly in areas such as conservation biology and epidemiology, where targeting specific populations is crucial.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)18824-18829
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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