, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp 113-122

Genetic diversity, mating system, and conservation of a Mexican subalpine relict, Picea mexicana Martínez

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Abstract

Mexican spruce (Picea mexicana Martínez), an endangered species of the highest sky islands in México's Sierra Madre Oriental and Sierra Madre Occidental, is threatened by fire, grazing, and global warming. Its conservation depends on whether it also is threatened by inbreeding and loss of genic diversity. We used 18 isozyme markers in 12 enzyme systems to assay genic diversity, characterize the mating system, and test for recent bottlenecks in three known populations. Unbiased, expected heterozygosity (H e ) averaged 0.125. Despite a separation of 676 km between populations in the Sierra Madre Oriental and the Sierra Madre Occidental, Wright's F ST , the proportion of total genic diversity among populations, was only 6.9%. Nei's genetic distance was 0.001 between the populations in the Sierra Madre Oriental and more than an order of magnitude greater, 0.019, between the Sierra Madre Oriental and Sierra Madre Occidental. However, both values point to relatively recent divergence. Mating systems were predominantly outcrossing, but with significant selfing. Multilocus estimates of selfing varied from 19% to 41%, and the means of single-locus estimates were higher, suggesting that additional inbreeding occurred by mating among relatives. Despite significant inbreeding, observed heterozygosity was as high as or higher than H e ; Wright's fixation index, F IS , was −0.107. Under the observed level of selfing, positive values of F IS were expected. Therefore, selection against inbreds and homozygotes must be intense. Cornuet-Luikart tests indicate recent bottlenecks in at least two of the three populations. The results suggest that Mexican spruce is a genetically viable species, and threats are primarily environmental.