Morphological and genetic diversity and seed germination behavior of a snow lotus (Saussurea involucrata, Asteraceae) from the Mongolian Altay Mountains, Western Mongolia
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Different conservation measures including domestication approaches are needed to preserve rare and extensively used plant species and to satisfy future market demands. Snow lotus (a common name used for a number of high altitude species in central Asia) species in Mongolia are important medicinal plants, mostly endangered at the regional level due to the extensive use for medicinal purposes and naturally limited distribution ranges. In order to develop effective conservation and cultivation approaches we studied the morphological and genetic diversity as well as the seed germination behavior of three populations of Saussurea involucrata in the Altay Mountains of Western Mongolia. Plant height and leaf length were measured on 41–53 randomly selected individuals in each population. Enhancement of seed germination was studied using either mechanical or chemical scarification with potassium nitrate and gibberellic acid. Genetic diversity within and among three populations of the species was analyzed using Amplified Fragment Length Polymorphisms. Plants in three populations differed in height and leaf length (P < 0.001). Plant size tended to be negatively correlated with habitat altitude. Seed germination rate was low and increased with seed soaking in gibberellic acid. However, the response of seeds to different treatments was rather population-specific. Most treatments did not significantly affect mean days to germination and the ratio of shoot to root dry weight of 2-weeks old seedlings. The level of genetic diversity in the studied populations was lower than the average value for other long-lived perennial herbs. Analysis of molecular variance revealed a high differentiation within populations (92 % of total variation) indicating sufficient gene flow among populations.
KeywordsAFLPs Chilling treatment Ethnomedicine Genetic variability Gibberillic acid Potassium nitrate Saussureainvolucrata
The study was conducted within the WaterCope project, a Mongolian-Sino-German Research and Development cooperation project aiming at developing and implementing improved management strategies for water resource management and land use in the transborder water tower area of Altay-Dzungaria in Mongolia and China (www.watercope.org). WaterCope is funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD Funding Number: I-R-1284-WATERCOPE). The authors are thankful for technical help by the staff of the Department of Forest Genetics and Forest Tree Breeding, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, Germany, especially to Mrs. A. Dolynska and to Mr. R. Braukmann, the master gardener of the Greenhouse for Tropical Crops, Universität Kassel. Thanks also to Dr. U. Bayarsaikhan from National University of Mongolia for producing the map of sampling area.
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