New research shows that the red algae that grows at the mouth of the Fal River in Cornwall are genetically unique.
Scientists at the University of Exeter have studied the population genetics of Phymatolithon calcareum, or coral red algae. They form maerl beds in shallow coastal seas from Portugal to Norway: the beds are needed to provide habitat and shelter for thousands of fish and invertebrates. These algae also play an important role in carbon storage.
The results of the work show that there are genetic differences depending on the location of the algae. However, the settlers at the mouth of the Fal River are not genetically similar to everyone else.
The genetically unique settlement is now in great danger due to pollution of the marine environment and dredging operations, which are periodically carried out to maintain navigable access to the port.
Due to large genetic differences, algae are almost incapable of dispersal, this limits the connection between individual populations.