Chloroplast DNA variation and population structure in the widespread forest tree, Eucalyptus grandis
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- Jones, M.E., Shepherd, M., Henry, R.J. et al. Conserv Genet (2006) 7: 691. doi:10.1007/s10592-005-9104-7
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Recognition of genetic structure of populations and the ability to identify vulnerable populations is useful for the formation of conservation management strategies for plants. Eucalyptus grandis is a tall forest tree that has a major area of occurrence in subtropical eastern Australia, with smaller populations located in the east coast tropics. Many widespread forest species exhibit population differentiation that corresponds to geographic regions. However, Eucalyptus grandis appears to be an exception based on isozyme and morphological data. This is intriguing given a large discontinuity between northern populations and those in the southern part of the species range. In this study, the distribution of a maternally inherited chloroplast locus was examined because it was more likely to reveal genetic structure due to the slower evolution of the chloroplast genome and limited dispersal of seed in eucalypts. As expected, the GST for chloroplast DNA was higher than that for nuclear DNA but indicated low population differentiation for a forest tree species. Phylogeographic analysis indicated that the 15 populations grouped into three broad geographical regions; however, overall population structure was weak suggesting that the large geographical disjunction in the distribution of E. grandis may be relatively recent. A paradigm for conservation management of E. grandis based on chloroplast DNA haplotype distribution would take into account the low differentiation among populations.