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Spatial distribution, niche ecology and conservation genetics of Degenia velebitica (Brassicaceae), a narrow endemic species of the north-western Dinaric Alps

Abstract

The high-biodiversity phenomenon of the Balkan Peninsula is a result of the past and present topographic, climatic and geological conditions, as well as human impact. The Dinaric Alps, as a part of the Balkan Peninsula, harbour a high number of endemic species, some of them comprising a small number of populations, which are often endangered. We investigated spatial distribution, community composition, site ecology, genetic diversity and conservation of Degenia velebitica, a stenoendemic species of the north-western Dinaric Alps. Our results showed that D. velebitica is nowadays restricted to three localities with the area of occupancy of 48,560 m2, harbouring approximately 37,000 individuals. Degenia velebitica stands are differentiated into three well-characterized, floristically homogenous syntaxa, very distinct from the surrounding vegetation, suggesting their azonal occurrence and restriction to spatially highly fragmented microsites exposed to stormy winds. Spatial distances of populations, differences in D. velebitica community composition and site ecology are mirrored in genetic variation patterns of the populations, such as high-frequency down-weighted marker values in the north-western populations and high gene diversity in the south-eastern group of populations. The fact that we could not find a single D. velebitica individual at the locus classicus indicates the existence of the ever-growing fragmentation. The analyses of genetic structure using AFLP data recognized two main genetic groups of populations as evolutionary significant units that should be considered when planning protection measures. According to our IUCN Red List reassessment, D. velebitica should be treated as a critically endangered species that requires immediate conservation actions.

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Acknowledgements

The authors wish to thank all colleagues who participated in the field work: Igor Boršić, Nina Vuković, Dijana Župan, Ana Sudar and Ivana Kušan. We would like to thank Peter Glasnović who helped in preparation of the illustrations in Fig. 1. Thanks to all support that came from kind staff of the Velebit Nature Park and the North Velebit National Park. The authors wish also to thank anonymous reviewers and the editor whose comments and suggestions helped substantially in the improvement of this manuscript. Plant collecting permit was provided by the Croatian Agency for the Environment and Nature (No. 517-07-1-1-1-15-4, class UP/I-612-07/15-48/23).

Funding

This study was funded by the Scientific Research Council of the Republic of Croatia, within the framework of Project No. 119-1191193-1232 and by the project Karst Ecosystem Conservation (KEC No. 2004/408).

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Correspondence to Zlatko Liber.

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Contribution to “Plants of the Balkan Peninsula in Space and Time”.

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Electronic supplementary material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

Online Resource 1

Phytosociological table of stands with Degenia velebitica using Domin scale as coverage-abundance values (a), Floristic Similarity Percentage (SIMPER) analysis between D. velebitica sites (b) (PDF 831 kb)

Online Resource 2

Within-population isolation by distance (IBD) in six Degenia velebitica populations assessed by regressions of kinship coefficients between individuals on the natural logarithm of geographical distances (PDF 115 kb)

Online Resource 3

Among-population isolation by distance (IBD) of six Degenia velebitica populations assessed by regression of FST/(1 − FST) ratios between populations on the natural logarithm of geographical distances (PDF 133 kb)

Online Resource 4

AMOVA’s φST pairwise values between the localities (a), STRUCTURE: Average Q (proportion of membership) values of each population in each cluster (b), results of BAPS (c) (PDF 323 kb)

Online Resource 5

Log-likelihood [ln P(X|K)] values for each of the ten independent runs for each K and ΔK values for each K as inferred from multilocus AFLP data of Degenia velebitica samples using STRUCTURE analysis (PDF 158 kb)

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Information on electronic supplementary materials

Online Resource 1. Phytosociological table of stands with Degenia velebitica using Domin scale as coverage-abundance values (a), Floristic Similarity Percentage (SIMPER) analysis between D. velebitica sites (b).

Online Resource 2. Within-population isolation by distance (IBD) in six Degenia velebitica populations assessed by regressions of kinship coefficients between individuals on the natural logarithm of geographical distances.

Online Resource 3. Among-population isolation by distance (IBD) of six Degenia velebitica populations assessed by regression of FST/(1 − FST) ratios between populations on the natural logarithm of geographical distances.

Online Resource 4. AMOVA’s φST pairwise values between the localities (a), STRUCTURE: Average Q (proportion of membership) values of each population in each cluster (b), results of BAPS (c).

Online Resource 5. Log-likelihood [ln P(X|K)] values for each of the ten independent runs for each K and ΔK values for each K as inferred from multilocus AFLP data of Degenia velebitica samples using STRUCTURE analysis.

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Liber, Z., Surina, B., Nikolić, T. et al. Spatial distribution, niche ecology and conservation genetics of Degenia velebitica (Brassicaceae), a narrow endemic species of the north-western Dinaric Alps. Plant Syst Evol 306, 64 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00606-020-01695-3

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00606-020-01695-3

Keywords

  • AFLP
  • Distribution
  • Population genetics
  • Site ecology