Nuclear genetic markers indicate Danish origin of the Norwegian beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) populations established in 500–1,000 AD
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The northernmost range of beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) is in southern Norway and consists of two distinct and isolated distributions, a single population at Seim in West Norway and several adjacent populations in Vestfold, East Norway. The modest beech pollen deposits beyond these main distributions suggest that the Norwegian beech distribution has never been an extension of the south Scandinavian range. We used genetic markers and historical sources to trace the ancestor populations for the beech at Seim and Vestfold, hypothesising Denmark as the most likely source. Nuclear inter-simple sequence repeat markers, amplified by polymerase chain reaction (PCR), were applied to estimate genetic distances between beech populations in Norway, England and Denmark. The variation in chloroplast DNA polymorphism was estimated using PCR-restriction fragment length polymorphism. The nuclear genetic data indicate Denmark as a source for the beech in Norway, although the data are less certain in the case of Seim than in that of Vestfold. The populations from South England were genetically different from most Scandinavian populations. The genetic variation within Norwegian populations was only slightly lower than that of the English and Danish populations, questioning birds as vectors for dispersal. Thus, the pollen data and our results are in accordance with the intentional introduction and documented human migrations across Skagerrak before and during the Viking Age.