Restricted gene flow in fragmented populations of a wind-pollinated tree
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- Provan, J., Beatty, G.E., Hunter, A.M. et al. Conserv Genet (2008) 9: 1521. doi:10.1007/s10592-007-9484-y
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Fragmentation of natural populations can have negative effects at the genetic level, thus threatening their evolutionary potential. Many of the negative genetic impacts of population fragmentation can be ameliorated by gene flow and it has been suggested that in wind-pollinated tree species, high or even increased levels of gene flow are a feature of fragmented populations, although several studies have disputed this. We have used a combination of nuclear microsatellites and allele-specific PCR (AS-PCR) analysis of chloroplast single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) to examine the levels and patterns of genetic diversity and population differentiation in fragmented populations of juniper (Juniperus communis) in Ireland and inform conservation programs for the species. Significant population differentiation was found for both chloroplast and nuclear markers, indicating restricted gene flow, particularly over larger geographic scales. For conservation purposes, the existence of genetically distinct clusters and geographically localised chloroplast haplotypes suggests that the concept of provenance should be taken into account when formulating augmentation or reintroduction strategies. Furthermore, the potential lack of seed dispersal and seedling establishment means that ex-situ approaches to seed and seedling management may have to be considered.