Current issue: 54(5)
Under compilation: 55(1)
Oceanic archipelagos provide an important platform from which to evaluate the effects of isolation and fragmentation on the genetic structure of species. As a result of oceanic isolation, such species usually show lower levels of genetic diversity and higher genetic differentiation than their mainland congeners. However, this is not necessarily the case for long distance dispersal species, whose genetic structure is not strictly defined by population isolation. We assessed the level and distribution of genetic diversity among Canarian populations of Juniperus turbinata in order to evaluate the influence of population isolation on its genetic structure. Using Amplified Fragment Length Polymorphism markers, we analyzed molecular diversity among 175 individuals from five populations occurring across the Canary Island and three Moroccan populations. Principal Coordinate Analysis, neighbor joining clustering, AMOVA and Bayesian-based analysis were applied to examine population structure. Despite the documented habitat loss and decline in Canarian populations, Amplified Fragment Length Polymorphism markers revealed levels of intra-population genetic diversity that were similar to those from mainland populations, and low levels of genetic differentiation. Bayesian analysis of population structure showed three main clusters, one comprising El Hierro population and a few individuals from several islands, a second cluster that grouped the remaining Canarian populations together, and a third cluster grouping Moroccan populations. Our results suggest that the main force driving the genetic structure of Canarian populations of J. turbinata is its capacity for long distance dispersal.
Populations at species’ range margins are expected to show lower genetic diversity than populations at the core of the range. Yet, long-lived, widespread tree species are expected to be resistant to genetic impoverishment, thus showing comparatively high genetic diversity within populations and low differentiation among populations. Here, we study the distribution of genetic variation in the pedunculate oak (Quercus robur L.) at its range margin in Finland at two hierarchical scales using 15 microsatellite loci. At a regional scale, we compared variation within versus among three oak populations. At a landscape scale, we examined genetic structuring within one of these populations, growing on an island of ca 5 km2. As expected, we found the majority of genetic variation in Q. robur to occur within populations. Nonetheless, differentiation among populations was markedly high (FST = 0.12) compared with values reported for populations of Q. robur closer to the core of its range. At the landscape level, some spatial and temporal sub-structuring was observed, likely explained by the history of land-use on the island. Overall, Q. robur fulfils the expectation of the central-marginal hypothesis of high differentiation among marginal populations, but the notable population differentiation has most likely been influenced also by the long, ongoing fragmentation of populations. Finnish oak populations may still be adjusting to the drastic habitat changes of the past centuries. Preservation of genetic variation within the remaining stands is thus an important factor in the conservation of Q. robur at its range margin.
English yew (Taxus baccata L.) is a strictly outcrossing and dioecious species whose populations are small and isolated. It is known that sex ratios may vary in natural populations due to local environmental conditions or stochastic events. However, unbalanced sex ratios may have negative impacts on genetic diversity through enhanced genetic drift and inbreeding. The present study represents one of the first attempts to compare the genetic variation at microsatellite loci within and between populations with different gender proportions. Our results indicated that there were no significant correlations between sex ratio and the extent of genetic variation in different populations. All populations exhibited high levels of genetic diversity. Additionally, the genetic structure was characterized separately in male and female individuals. Statistical analyses of the set estimators describing the genetic structure of male and female individuals of T. baccata revealed no significant differences between the two groups. Molecular analysis verified that microsatellite nuclear loci neutrality developed for T. baccata, as there were no significant differences in the genetic variation between males and females and no evidence for any outlier loci using coalescent and hierarchical Bayesian simulations. The results demonstrate that ignoring biased sex ratios in T. baccata populations had no effect on the assessment of genetic differentiation and genetic diversity within and between populations of this species. These results are discussed with regards to the practical application of molecular markers in conservation programs.
Pinus nigra J.F. Arnold, European black pine, is a typical component of Mediterranean and sub-Mediterranean coniferous forests with highly fragmentary distribution. Western Mediterranean populations of this species have been studied genetically to date, while eastern populations from the central Balkans, which are larger and more abundant, are still genetically understudied. We analyzed seven populations of P. nigra representing all infraspecific taxa recognized within the central Balkans (subspecies nigra with varieties nigra and gocensis Đorđević; and subspecies pallasiana (Lamb.) Holmboe with varieties pallasiana and banatica (Endl.) Georgescu et Ionescu), with three chloroplast microsatellites (cpDNA SSRs) and one mitochondrial (mtDNA) locus. Although our molecular data failed to support circumscription of studied infraspecific taxa, we found that genetic patterns at both genomes are in accordance with those found previously in westward populations of this species, that is – exceptionally high levels of genetic diversity (HT = 0.949) and low genetic differentiation (GST = 0.024) at the cpDNA level, and moderate levels of genetic diversity (HT = 0.357) and genetic differentiation (GST = 0.358) at the mtDNA level. Based on genealogical relations of mtDNA types currently present in Balkans’ and Iberian/African populations, we inferred that the ancestral gene pool of P. nigra already harbored polymorphism at position 328 prior to the divergence to two lineages currently present in westward and eastward parts of the species range distribution. Subsequent occurrence of three mutations, which distinguish these two lineages, suggests their long-term isolation.