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Faculty of Science
One of the world's most complex coasts extends from Puget Sound, Washington, through British Columbia and around the coast of Alaska. Repeated glaciation has acted like a species pump, creating a more diverse marine benthic seaweed flora than one would expect in a region so recently covered by ice. Although this area has been studied by phycologists at U.B.C. since the 1950s, only recently have we had the molecular tools to address unequivocally questions of species limits and relationships and the biogeography of speciation in this environment. These tools have allowed us to recognize species that had previously been confused with other species, to hypothesize the existence of refugia that allowed species to persist within the glacial boundary through the Pleistocene, and to identify geographic boundaries that may have played a role in speciation.
These studies highlight the need for further systematic investigation of North Pacific species. More intensive collections are revealing not just additional cryptic diversity, but also concordant patterns of genotype diversity distributions and a strong signal for a Pacific origin of many Atlantic species. Culture studies have identified novel patterns of development and vegetative proliferation. These studies serve to further our knowledge of seaweed phylogeny, systematics and biogeography.