, Volume 124, Issue 2, pp 253-263
Date: 14 Aug 2010

Homogeneous genetic structure and variation in tree architecture of Larix kaempferi along altitudinal gradients on Mt. Fuji

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Variations in tree architecture and in the genetic structure of Larix kaempferi on Mt. Fuji were surveyed along altitudinal gradients using 11 nSSR loci. In total, 249 individuals from six populations along three trails at altitudes ranging from approximately 1,300 to 2,700 m were investigated. Gradual changes in tree architecture with increasing elevation, from erect trees to flag trees and krummholz mats, were observed in the high-altitude populations (>2,000 m) on all trails. These findings suggest that tree architecture is correlated with the severe environmental conditions associated with increasing elevation, such as strong winds. In contrast to obvious variations in tree architecture, the genetic diversity of populations along the trails was almost uniform (H E = 0.717–0.762) across the altitudinal range. The results of the AMOVA and STRUCTURE analyses, and the analysis for isolation by distance pattern, suggest homogeneous genetic structuring across all populations on Mt. Fuji, while the pairwise F ST showed barriers to gene flow between altitudinal populations that were demarcated as high- or low-altitude populations by Abies-Tsuga forest. Although the evergreen coniferous forests on the mountainside may hinder gene flow, this may be explained by the long-distance seed dispersal of the Japanese larch and/or a short population history resulting from eruptions or slush avalanches, although evergreen coniferous forests on the mountainside may hinder gene flow.