High genetic diversity in isolated populations of Thesium ebracteatum at the edge of its distribution range
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- Dostálek, T., Münzbergová, Z. & Plačková, I. Conserv Genet (2014) 15: 75. doi:10.1007/s10592-013-0522-7
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The aim of this study was to estimate the degree and distribution of genetic diversity within Central-European populations of Thesium ebracteatum—one of the most endangered plant species in Europe. By analyzing allozymes from 17 populations, we estimated the distribution of genetic diversity and suggest the most valuable populations for conservation. Analysis of molecular variance results showed the highest variance existed between populations (54 %), whereas the mean variance within populations was 46 %. A surprisingly low degree of variance (less than 1 %) was found between the six studied regions. We also observed no correlation between geographical and genetic distance, which supports the idea that individual populations are strongly isolated. T. ebracteatum undergoes extensive clonal growth and may survive for very long periods of time without generative reproduction. Consistent with this, we found a strong and significant relationship between genetic diversity and population size. All populations occupying an area greater than 300 m2 showed high genetic diversity, whereas small populations contained less genetic diversity. Therefore, conservation priorities could generally be decided based on population size. Because this species is a weak competitor, existing localities should also be managed to prevent species loss from habitat degradation, by mowing or from time to time otherwise disturbing population areas to create open areas for growth.