, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp 85-95
Date: 11 Apr 2007

Genetic consequences of past climate and human impact on eastern Mediterranean Cedrus libani forests. Implications for their conservation

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This study demonstrates the impact of natural factors and human activities on biodiversity at gene level on a keystone Mediterranean forest ecosystem species. We monitored the within and among population gene diversity of Cedrus libani, a forest tree species of the Eastern Mediterranean mountains. We used paternally inherited chloroplast microsatellites (57 haplotypes) and bi-parentally inherited isozymes (12 loci) to estimate allelic richness, heterozygosity, and differentiation in 18 natural and 1 planted populations from Turkey and Lebanon. We showed that there is a phylogeographic structure in C. libani, and that forests from Lebanon and Turkey constitute two genetically isolated groups which probably arose from distinct refugia after the last Quaternary glacial cycle. We found extensive gene flow and relatively low differentiation in Turkey, as well as little evidence of genetic drift within populations. However, one population we analyzed, which was planted more than 20 centuries ago, and is isolated from core populations in Turkey, demonstrated extremely low genetic diversity and deserves high conservation priority. In contrast, we found low gene flow, high differentiation and severe cases of genetic drift in Lebanon. As forests there are the remnants of millennia-long extensive deforestation, all deserve high conservation priority.