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Genetic diversity of flowering dogwood in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

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Abstract

In the past three decades, flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) populations have experienced severe declines caused by dogwood anthracnose. Mortality has ranged from 48% to 98%, raising the concern that the genetic diversity of this native tree has been reduced significantly. In this study, we investigated levels of genetic diversity and population structure of flowering dogwood populations in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP). Understanding the factors influencing geographic distribution of genetic variation is one of the major concerns for preserving biodiversity and conservation of native populations. Eighteen microsatellite loci were used to evaluate the level and distribution of genetic variation of native flowering dogwood trees throughout the GSMNP. Significant genetic structure exists at both landscape and local levels. Two genetic clusters exist within the park and are separated by the main dividing ridges of the Great Smoky Mountains. The differentiation of the clusters is subtle, but statistically significant. Gene flow, evident through low-elevation corridors, indicates that nonrandom mating occurs between related individuals despite wide dispersal of seeds. Although high mortality rate and reduced fecundity caused by dogwood anthracnose severely affected native flowering dogwood populations throughout the entire GSMNP, this study confirmed that considerable genetic diversity still exists at the population level. It seems unlikely that recent demographic dynamics have resulted in a depletion of genetic variation.

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Acknowledgments

The authors thank the United States Department of Agriculture (agreement number 58-6404-2-0057) for financial support.

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Correspondence to Denita Hadziabdic.

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Communicated by R. Sederoff

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Appendix

Appendix

Table 4 C. florida sampling locations throughout the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, USA with GPS coordinates and trail/road location within the park

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Hadziabdic, D., Wang, X., Wadl, P.A. et al. Genetic diversity of flowering dogwood in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Tree Genetics & Genomes 8, 855–871 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11295-012-0471-1

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