Publication details.


Author(s):A. Lázaro-Nogal, S. Matesanz, A. García-Fernández, A. Traveset, F. Valladares
Title:Population size, center–periphery, and seed dispersers’ effects on the genetic diversity and population structure of the Mediterranean relict shrub Cneorum tricoccon
Journal:Ecology and Evolution
JCR Impact Factor:2.34
Issue No.:18
Abstract:© 2017 The Authors. Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. The effect of population size on population genetic diversity and structure has rarely been studied jointly with other factors such as the position of a population within the species’ distribution range or the presence of mutualistic partners influencing dispersal. Understanding these determining factors for genetic variation is critical for conservation of relict plants that are generally suffering from genetic deterioration. Working with 16 populations of the vulnerable relict shrub Cneorum tricoccon throughout the majority of its western Mediterranean distribution range, and using nine polymorphic microsatellite markers, we examined the effects of periphery (peripheral vs. central), population size (large vs. small), and seed disperser (introduced carnivores vs. endemic lizards) on the genetic diversity and population structure of the species. Contrasting genetic variation (HE: 0.04–0.476) was found across populations. Peripheral populations showed lower genetic diversity, but this was dependent on population size. Large peripheral populations showed high levels of genetic diversity, whereas small central populations were less diverse. Significant isolation by distance was detected, indicating that the effect of long-distance gene flow is limited relative to that of genetic drift, probably due to high selfing rates (FIS = 0.155–0.887), restricted pollen flow, and ineffective seed dispersal. Bayesian clustering also supported the strong population differentiation and highly fragmented structure. Contrary to expectations, the type of disperser showed no significant effect on either population genetic diversity or structure. Our results challenge the idea of an effect of periphery per se that can be mainly explained by population size, drawing attention to the need of integrative approaches considering different determinants of genetic variation. Furthermore, the very low genetic diversity observed in several small populations and the strong among-population differentiation highlight the conservation value of large populations throughout the species’ range, particularly in light of climate change and direct human threats.

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