, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp 63-73

Effects of population size on genetic diversity and seed production in the rare Dictamnus albus(Rutaceae) in central Germany

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Abstract

It is widely assumed that population size significantly affects the dynamics of plant populations. Smaller populations are threatened by genetic drift and inbreeding depression, both of which may result in a decrease of genetic variation and a resulting negative impact on plant fitness. In our study we analysed the patterns of random amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD) variation among 10 Dictamnus albuspopulations of varying size. The aim was to examine local differentiation in relation to spatial isolation resulting from limited population size and geographical distancing between populations. Significant correlations were noted between population size and both percentage of polymorphic loci (P  < 0.01) and genetic diversity (P < 0.01). The matrix correlation between genetic and geographical distances revealed that geographical differentiation was reflected in the RAPD profile (Mantel test: r 2=0.34, P < 0.001). We found the highest level of molecular variance of RAPD patterns among individuals within the populations (72.6%), whereas among-population variation accounted for only 21.6% of variation. These results were highly significant in that they indicated a restricted population differentiation, as would be expected from outcrossing species. An additional analysis of seed production showed that there was significant variation among populations in terms of mean seed number per flower and mean seed mass per population which could be attributed to differences in population size as well as levels of genetic variation.