Genetic variation of Gentianella campestris ssp. campestris in the Northern Alps: how important are population size and isolation?
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In this study, we analysed the impact of population size and isolation on the genetic variation of the short-lived alpine plant species Gentianella campestris ssp. campestris from two study regions (Allgäu and Karwendel) in the Northern calcareous Alps in Germany. We determined the size and isolation of the study populations and analysed genetic variation using amplified fragment length polymorphisms. Genetic variation of G. campestris ssp. campestris differed significantly between the two study regions. Genetic variation did not depend on population size. However, the level of genetic variation within populations was about three times lower in the Karwendel, where the species is much more isolated than in the Allgäu. Conversely, genetic variation among populations was much stronger in the Karwendel than in the Allgäu. Our results support the observation that the level of genetic variation within populations of alpine plant species may not only be affected by population size, but also by population isolation. Depending on the distance among populations, gene flow by exchange of pollen and seeds triggers the influx of genetic variation, thereby sometimes superimposing the effects of population size. Our results suggest that for seed collections in conservation projects, not only population size, but also isolation should be considered.
KeywordsAlpine plant species AFLP Bavarian Alps Fragmentation Isolation Molecular marker Population size
We would like to thank Veronika Bäuerlein and Petra Schitko for lab work, Sabine Fischer for her help with the map, Peter Poschlod for lively discussions and the government of the Upper Palatinate for financial support.
CR conceived and designed the study. Both authors contributed to data analysis. CR wrote the first draft of the manuscript, BH contributed to revisions.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest in relation with this article.
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