, Volume 10, Issue 3, pp 641-652
Date: 15 Mar 2014

Effect of a red oak species gradient on genetic structure and diversity of Quercus castanea (Fagaceae) in Mexico

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Abstract

Incipient reproductive barriers are a common characteristic of oak species. Disruption of these barriers promotes changes in diversity and genetic structure of the species involved. Quercus castanea is a red oak with wide geographic distribution in Mexico, which presents atypically high morphological variability when it occurs in sympatry with other red oak species, suggesting that hybridization may explain the observed variation. We tested if the genetic structure and diversity levels of Q. castanea are related to the number of red oak species growing in sympatry. In total, 14 microsatellite (SSRs) primers (six nSSRs and eight cpSSRs) were used in 120 Q. castanea individuals (20/site) belonging to six populations, where the number of red oak species associated varied from zero to five. Results showed a positive and significant relationship between the genetic diversity of Q. castanea and the number of red oak species growing in sympatry, regardless of the marker type or the parameter of genetic diversity analyzed. Also, we found a higher genetic differentiation of Q. castanea populations using cpSSRs in comparison with nSSRs. Our results suggest that temperate forests with high red oaks species richness co-dominated by Q. castanea promote the increase in this species genetic diversity. From a conservation perspective, high genetic diversity levels of foundation species such as Q. castanea may have positive cascade effects extending to other species in the community.

Communicated by A. Kremer