, Volume 7, Issue 6, pp 1299-1313
Date: 16 Aug 2011

Is the genetic diversity of small scattered forest tree populations at the southern limits of their range more prone to stochastic events? A wild cherry case study by microsatellite-based markers

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Wild cherry (Prunus avium L.) is a widespread, partially asexual, noble hardwood European species characterized by a scattered distribution, small population sizes, and human exploitation for its valuable wood. These characteristics, especially at the southern limits of the species natural distribution where additional varying stresses may occur, render P. avium populations prone to potential stochastic, genetic, and demographic events. In this study, we used dominant inter simple sequence repeat (ISSR) and codominant simple sequence repeat (SSR) markers to infer the genetic structure of P. avium. Five populations from northern Greece were evaluated based on 46 ISSR and 11 SSR loci. Populations presented a relatively high level of genetic variation, with a mean genetic diversity of H e = 0.166 and H e = 0.740 regarding ISSR and SSR analysis, respectively. We observed moderate population differentiation for ISSR (G ST = 0.113) and SSR (F ST = 0.097) markers. AMOVA also detected significant differentiation among populations for ISSRs (Φ ST = 0.338) and SRRs (Φ ST = 0.162). According to linkage disequilibrium analysis, estimates of effective population size were generally sufficient for maintaining extant genetic variability and evolutionary potential. A possible bottleneck was detected for only one population. In general, it appears that despite the particular characteristics of the P. avium populations studied, genetic stochasticity events were not apparent. The studied populations, located at the rear edge of the species European distribution, reveal a wealth of genetic variation that is very valuable for the genetic conservation of local adaptive gene complexes, especially under contemporary climatic change scenarios.

Communicated by S. Aitken
Ioannis Ganopoulos and Filippos A. Aravanopoulos contributed equally to this work.