The genetic structure of mangrove species is greatly affected by their geographic history. Nine natural populations of Ceriops tagal were collected from Borneo, the Malay Peninsula, and India for this phylogeographic study. Completely different haplotype compositions on the east versus west coasts of the Malay Peninsula were revealed using the atpB-rbcL and trnL-trnF spacers of chloroplast DNA. The average haplotype diversity (Hd) of the total population was 0.549, nucleotide diversity (θ) was 0.030, and nucleotide difference (π) was 0.0074. The cladogram constructed by the index of population differentiation (G ST) clearly separated the South China Sea populations from the Indian Ocean populations. In the analysis of the minimum spanning network, the Indian Ocean haplotypes were all derived from South China Sea haplotypes, suggesting a dispersal route of C. tagal from Southeast Asia to South Asia. The Sunda Land river system and surface currents might be accountable for the gene flow directions in the South China Sea and Bay of Bengal, respectively. The historical geography not only affected the present genotype distribution but also the evolution of C. tagal. These processes result in the genetic differentiation and the differentiated populations that should be considered as Management Units (MUs) for conservation measurements instead of random forestation, which might lead to gene mixing and reduction of genetic variability of mangrove species. According to this phylogeographic study, populations in Borneo, and east and west Malay Peninsula that have unique genotypes should be considered as distinct MUs, and any activities resulting in gene mixing with each other ought to be prevented.
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