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Will the artificial populations be sustainable? A genetic assessment on Caragana korshinskii afforestation in the semiarid regions of North China


The semiarid regions are one of the core areas in the construction of ecological civilization in China. Previous studies have shown that afforestation was an effective way for the ecological restoration to prevent soil degradation in the semiarid regions of North China. Unfortunately, little is known about the genetic information of these afforested plant populations, resulting in the defective assessment of the population stability and conservation in the process of ecological restoration under climate change. In this study, using maternally and bi-parentally inherited markers, genetic diversity was estimated in 5 artificial and 12 natural populations of Caragana korshinskii. The significant genetic differentiation was found among the artificial populations, and it could not support their population persistence in the restoration ecosystems. Compared to the natural populations, the artificial populations harbored much lower genetic diversity in both nrITS and cpDNA, which indicated that mating might be greatly limited and unbalanced among the germplasms. Based on the ecological niche modeling analysis, we proposed that both the natural and artificial populations were at a great risk of facing the impact of climate change, although the artificial populations were afforested in the optimum areas. These results suggested that it was necessary to assess the genetic diversity of founder populations before afforestation, and to conduct genetic rejuvenation for the defective artificial forest. This study proposed a pragmatic approach to guide the sustainable afforestation and provided the molecular evaluation on the ecological restoration in the desert areas of North China.

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We thank Xin Zhao for laboratory assistance. We are also thankful for Peipei Sun’s help on the sampling works. We also thank TopEdit ( for its linguistic assistance during the preparation of this manuscript. This research was financially supported by the National Key Research and Development Program of China (Grant No. 2016YFC0500903), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 31901079 and 31770416), the Key Research and Development Program of Gansu Province (Grant No. 18YF1NA123), the Xinjiang Production and Construction Crops Key Laboratory of Protection and Utilization of Biological Resources in Tarim Basin (Grant No. BRZD1809), the Foundation for Excellent Youth Scholars of NIEER, CAS (Grant No. Y92972), and the Special Funds for Scientific and Technological Innovation and Development in Gansu Province (Research and Development Center of Desert Nutrition and Medicinal Plant Germplasm Innovation).

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Correspondence to Chaoju Qian or Xiao-Fei Ma.

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Yin, X., Qian, C., Yan, X. et al. Will the artificial populations be sustainable? A genetic assessment on Caragana korshinskii afforestation in the semiarid regions of North China. Eur J Forest Res 141, 105–116 (2022).

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  • Caragana korshinskii
  • Population genetic diversity
  • Afforestation
  • Artificial populations
  • Sustainability