Conservation Genetics

, Volume 16, Issue 6, pp 1277–1293 | Cite as

Environmental requirements trump genetic factors in explaining narrow endemism in two imperiled Florida sunflowers

  • Chase M. MasonEmail author
  • Caitlin D. A. Ishibashi
  • Ashley M. Rea
  • Jennifer R. Mandel
  • John M. Burke
  • Lisa A. Donovan
Research Article


The mechanisms generating narrow endemism have long been of interest to biologists, with a variety of underlying causes proposed. This study investigates the origins of narrow endemism of two imperiled Florida endemics, Helianthus carnosus and Phoebanthus tenuifolius, in relation to a widespread sympatric close relative, Helianthus radula, as well as other members of the genus Helianthus. Using a combination of population genetics and environmental niche modeling, this study compares evidence in support of potential mechanisms underlying the origin of narrow endemism, including environmental specialization versus inbreeding, loss of diversity, or other predominantly genetic factors. The two narrow endemics were found to be comparable in genetic diversity to H. radula as well as other widespread Helianthus species, with little to no evidence of inbreeding. Environmental niche modeling indicates that distributions of both narrow endemics are strongly related to temperature and precipitation patterns, and that both endemics are threatened with severe reductions in habitat suitability under projected climate change. Evidence indicates that genetic factors likely are not the cause of narrow endemism in these species, suggesting that these species are likely ecological specialists and thus historical narrow endemics. This makes both species vulnerable to climate change, and of immediate conservation concern.


Climate change Genetic diversity Helianthus Inbreeding Niche modeling Phoebanthus 



Financial support for this research was provided by a Society for the Study of Evolution Rosemary Grant Award to CMM, a Florida Native Plant Society Conservation Grant to CMM, a University of Georgia Innovative and Interdisciplinary Research Grant to CMM, a University of Georgia Department of Plant Biology Palfrey Research Grant to CMM, a Plant Biology Graduate Student Association Research Assistance Award to CMM, and National Science Foundation Grant IOS 1122842 to LAD and DBI 0820451 to JMB. The authors thank Eric Goolsby and Elise Wygant for assistance with field collections, Kirsten Scofield, Charmaine Woody, and Kristi Haisler for assistance with DNA extraction, Charlotte Carrigan Quigley for assistance with PCR and genotyping protocols, and the Donovan lab group for helpful comments on earlier versions of this manuscript. The authors also thank the Florida State Park Service, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the Florida Department of Transportation, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, the Flagler Estates Road and Water Control District, Morningside Nature Center, Crystal River Preserve, Apalachicola National Forest, Tate’s Hell State Forest, St. Joseph’s Bay State Buffer Preserve, and Box-R Wildlife Management Area for assistance with collection permits for both H. carnosus and P. tenuifolius. In addition, the authors thank Dr. Louisa Carter Staton for aggregated soil layers and helpful advice on niche modeling, as well as Dr. Loren Anderson for tissue samples of P. tenuifolius from herbarium records at Florida State University.

Supplementary material

10592_2015_739_MOESM1_ESM.xlsx (78 kb)
Appendix S1. Multilocus EST-SSR genotypes used in this study.Supplementary material 1 (XLSX 78 kb)
10592_2015_739_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (3 mb)
Supplementary material 2 (PDF 3040 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Plant BiologyUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of MemphisMemphisUSA

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