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Chloroplast DNA phylogeography of the endangered Japanese red maple (Acer pycnanthum): the spatial configuration of wetlands shapes genetic diversity

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Abstract Aim 

Japanese red maple (Acer pycnanthum K. Koch) is an endangered species which grows in discrete wetland ecosystems within a limited geographical range. It is an important relic of geologic time, an endemic of unique wetland ecosystems and an indicator of hotspots of plant species diversity. However, information on its genetic characteristics across its range is lacking. Our aim was to determine the genetic structure and diversity of the species and make recommendations for conservation. Location 

Wetlands in central Honshu Island, Japan. Methods 

We collected leaf samples from 400 individuals of A. pycnanthum in 30 populations, extracted total DNA from each and sequenced three non-coding regions of chloroplast DNA. Results 

We identified nine haplotypes. High haplotype diversity (0.81) and the occurrence of rare haplotypes in eight distant populations suggest that wetlands provided multiple, adequate-size refuges during the Last Glacial Maximum. We found only one to four haplotypes within populations. The high degree of differentiation (GST = 0.83) implies that gene flow by seeds among populations is restricted. Eight populations demonstrated a positive contribution to the total genetic diversity owing to occurrence of rare and private haplotypes. Such populations are concentrated in the south-western part of the species distribution. According to the spatial autocorrelation analysis, there were significant spatial clusters of populations, which were characterized by similar haplotype composition. Using the haplotype distribution,samovaandbarrierdetected nearly identical genetic boundaries. Main conclusion 

In spite of the species’ limited geographical range, we identified a relatively high number of haplotypes and a clear geographical structure. We propose six management units, which can be used for future conservation activities, such as introduction of new individuals for on-site conservation projects and seed collection for ex situ conservation.
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Keywords: Chloroplast DNA; endangered species; genetic diversity; management units; phylogeography; wetlands

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2009-11-01

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