, Volume 69, Issue 4, pp 421-428

Biogeography of neutral genes and recent evolutionary history of pines in the Mediterranean Basin

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Mediterranean pines share many common life-history traits. They are found at almost all altitudinal levels around the Mediterranean Basin, from sea level to high-elevation mountains, and from hot and dry to wet and cold bioclimates. Their distribution ranges from widespread to regional and narrow, and from dense extensive populations to small populations of scattered individuals. They have been extensively used by human civilizations for millennia.


I show which are the main phylogenetic, ecological, and climatic factors explaining the patterns of within and among-population genetic diversity in Mediterranean pines.


I use a narrative synthesis approach and multiple examples from the literature on pine species from the Mediterranean Basin and California.


While Mediterranean pines have the highest levels of differentiation worldwide, their genetic diversity increases from west to east and is significantly reduced in low-elevation species. Factors such as ancestral adaptation to wildfire, reduction of effective population size during the Last Glacial Maximum, long distance dispersal during the Holocene, and more recent adaptation to patchy environmental conditions could explain these patterns.


Because of contrasted ecological, demographic, historical, and geographical processes, and despite their common biological attributes, pines of the Mediterranean Basin display complex biogeographic patterns at neutral gene level that can help retrace their evolutionary history. Although individual species often represent unique case studies that make generalizations risky, locating habitats of significantly high and low genetic diversity is key for detecting and understanding the major factors affecting gene diversity and may prove useful for profiling areas of high conservation value in the Mediterranean.

Handling Editor: Eric Rigolot