, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 195-204
Date: 06 Jan 2013

Conservation genetics of an endangered orchid in eastern Canada

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Abstract

Platanthera leucophaea, the Eastern Prairie Fringed-orchid, is a globally imperilled species native to the USA and Canada, with its Canadian distribution limited to the Province of Ontario. In Canada, where P. leucophaea is listed as endangered, approximately 40 % of populations have been extirpated in recent years, and many remaining populations have experienced substantial declines. In this study, we investigated whether reduced population sizes have led to low genetic diversity and inbreeding. We also investigated the extent to which hybridization with Platanthera psycodes may be threatening the genetic integrity of P. leucophaea populations. We found that overall, genetic diversity is low, and inbreeding is high. This is despite evidence of regular gene flow between proximate populations, although more distant populations show high levels of genetic differentiation. At sites where P. leucophaea is sympatric with P. psycodes, interspecific hybridization occurs in a bidirectional manner, i.e. with both parental species acting as either pollen donor or pollen recipient. Inbreeding and low genetic diversity in all populations, and hybridization in some populations, may pose future threats to P. leucophaea, and should be considered in the future by biodiversity managers.