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Cuantificación de la diversidad morfológica y genética y filogeografía de la hepática acuática amenazada Riella helicophylla como herramientas para su conservación.
Temporary ponds and pools are a particular type of wetlands that develop under semiarid to subhumid climates and that are characterized by alternating flood and drought annual periods. These ecological characteristics have conditioned a particular type of flora adapted to withstand such fluctuations. The great importance of Mediterranean temporary ponds for the conservation of biodiversity has been recognized by the Habitat Directive since 1992. The bryophytes are underrepresented in this type of habitat, however they constitute the exclusive habitat of liverwort genus Riella whose species are considered rare and/or threatened globally and that are the only bryophytes able to live submerged in water with high salt contents. One of the flagship species of these ponds in the Mediterranean is Riella helicophylla, one of the nine liverworts protected by the European Union. This project aims to fill several gaps of knowledge in this species through the development of morphological and population genetic studies using microsatellite markers. Our results will contribute to the quantification of intra- and inter population morphological and genetic diversity and to the elucidation of evolutionary relationships among populations of R. helicophylla based on their relationship with their potential dispersers (birds). We will investigate the effects of abiotic processes (isolation, population fragmentation) that may have influenced the morphological and genetic differentiation and that may have contributed to the differentiation of populations of R. helicophylla. The genetic results derived from this project will allow the precise quantification of the genetic diversity of populations of R. helicophylla and will constitute an objective tool when designing and implementing the most appropriate strategies for in situ and ex situ conservation and an efficient management of its populations.