As corals in tropical regions are threatened by increasing water temperatures, poleward range expansion of reef-building corals has been observed, and temperate regions are expected to serve as refugia in the face of climate change. To elucidate the important indicators of the sustainability of coral populations, we examined the genetic diversity and connectivity of the common reef-building coral Acropora hyacinthus along the Kuroshio Current, including recently expanded (<50 years) populations. Among the three cryptic lineages found, only one was distributed in temperate regions, which could indicate the presence of Kuroshio-associated larval dispersal barriers between temperate and subtropical regions, as shown by oceanographic simulations as well as differences in environmental factors. The level of genetic diversity gradually decreased towards the edge of the species distribution. This study provides an example of the reduced genetic diversity in recently expanded marginal populations, thus indicating the possible vulnerability of these populations to environmental changes. This finding underpins the importance of assessing the genetic diversity of newly colonized populations associated with climate change for conservation purposes. In addition, this study highlights the importance of pre-existing temperate regions as coral refugia, which has been rather underappreciated in local coastal management.
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