Reproductive biology and genetic structure in Lloydia serotina
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Concern regarding the conservation status of small, isolated populations of the arctic-alpine plant species Lloydia serotina prompted research to establish the status and performance of this species in Wales, in comparison with large populations in its more typical alpine habitat. Relationships between reproductive strategies and genetic variation were investigated in a number of populations, representing a wide habitat, geographic and population size range. In all populations, vegetative reproduction predominates over sexual reproduction, but seed produced is viable and germinates readily under controlled conditions. Smaller, peripheral populations produced fewer flowers and seeds than the larger ones, but all populations studied supported significant percentages (>30%) of male plants, due to either the occurrence of androdioecy in this species or to a resource limited breeding system. Analysis of allozyme variation in sixteen populations from North America, the European Alps and Wales showed lower levels of genetic variation in smaller populations which averaged 1.1–1.2 alleles per locus and 10–20% of loci polymorphic, whereas larger populations averaged 1.4 alleles per locus and 30–40% polymorphic loci. This applied especially to the most northerly and southerly populations in North America, suggesting the occurrence of genetic drift in these small, peripheral populations. F-statistics suggest relatively high levels of differentiation among smaller populations, even among those closely related geographically, but genetic variation has been retained in all but one population, possibly due to infrequent sexual reproduction by long lived clones. RAPD analysis of four small populations in Wales provided further evidence of clonal growth and possible inbreeding dominating a mixed mating reproductive system with consequent genetic structuring in these populations.
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