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Refugia within refugia: the case study of a canopy tree (Eurycorymbus cavaleriei) in subtropical China

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Abstract Aim 

Eurycorymbus cavaleriei (Lévl.) Rehd. et Hand.-Mazz. (Sapindaceae) is a Tertiary relict tree endemic to subtropical China. This area is a centre for speciation and evolution within the East Asia biome and one of its most important refugial locations. In this study we aim to elucidate the phylogeographical patterning in E. cavaleriei, in order to identify the locations of the species’ main refugia and the predominant patterns of migration that have led to the contemporary spatial genetic structure of chloroplast variation. Location 

Subtropical China. Methods 

We sampled 18 populations of E. cavaleriei throughout its geographical range. Chloroplast DNA (cpDNA) sequence data from two non-coding regions ((trnS/trnG and pl20/5′-rps12) were obtained from 170 individuals for phylogeographical analyses. Relationships among cpDNA haplotypes were determined using median-joining networks. Genetic structure was examined by spatial analysis of molecular variance (SAMOVA). Population differentiation was estimated by GST and NST statistics. Results 

Ten distinct haplotypes were identified. The level of differentiation among populations was relatively high (GST = 0.817), and NST was significantly higher than GST (P <0.05), indicating that strong phylogeographical structure is exhibited by this species. The SAMOVA revealed five diverging groups of related haplotypes, which coincide with major landscape features in this region. Main conclusions 

The high differentiation among populations of E. cavaleriei may be a combined effect of historical and contemporary processes, such as the low effective population size for the chloroplast genome of a dioecious species, long-term range fragmentation and limited seed dispersal for the species. Clear-cut geographical distributions of ancestral haplotypes of the species suggest multiple potential refugia across subtropical China. The identified refugial regions have long been recognized as centres of plant diversity and endemism for China and have also been suggested as glacial refugia for many other plant species. The combination of these factors means that these locations should be considered as the highest priority for inclusion in conservation policies and sustainable forest management strategies for subtropical China.

Keywords: Canopy tree; Eurycorymbus cavaleriei; Sapindaceae; chloroplast DNA; genetic structure; phylogeography; refugia; subtropical China

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: South China Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Guangzhou, Guangdong, China 2: Lushan Botanical Garden, Jiangxi Province and Chinese Academy of Sciences, Lushan, China

Publication date: November 1, 2009

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