Estimating population boundaries using regional and local-scale spatial genetic structure: an example in Eucalyptus globulus
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- Yeoh, S.H., Bell, J.C., Foley, W.J. et al. Tree Genetics & Genomes (2012) 8: 695. doi:10.1007/s11295-011-0457-4
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Eucalyptus globulus Labill is a foundation tree species over its disjunct distribution in southeastern Australia. The quality of its pulp makes it the most important hardwood species in the world. The importance of E. globulus prompted the establishment of common gardens from seed collected across its geographic range. This enabled us to study the genetic structure of the species, its population boundaries, and gene flow using 444 trees from different open-pollinated families that were genotyped at 16 microsatellite loci. A Bayesian clustering method was used to resolve five genetically distinct groups across the geographical range. These groups were identified as regions, which varied in diameter from 38 to 294 km and contain 4 to 16 putative populations. For two of these regional groups, we used spatial autocorrelation analysis based on assignment of trees to their natural stands to examine gene flow within each region. Consistent significant local-scale spatial structure occurred in both regions. Pairs of individuals within a region showed significant genetic similarity that extended beyond 40 km, suggesting distant movement of pollen. This suggests that breeding populations in E. globulus are much bigger than traditionally accepted in eucalypts. Our results are important for the management of genetic diversity and breeding populations in E. globulus. Similar studies of a variety of eucalypts pollinated by insects and birds will determine whether the local-scale genetic structure of E. globulus is unusual.