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Spontaneous Interspecific Hybridization and Patterns of Pollen Dispersal in Ex Situ Populations of a Tree Species (Sinojackia xylocarpa) that is Extinct in the Wild

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For endangered plants interspecific hybridization occurring in ex situ collections may lead to failure of reintroduction actions. We used Sinojackia xylocarpa, a well documented Chinese endemic species that is extinct in the wild, as a model case to address this concern. We used paternity analyses to assess the spontaneous hybridization and patterns of pollen flow between S. xylocarpa and its congener species, S. rehderiana, in conserved populations in Wuhan Botanic Garden. Interspecific hybridization events were detected in seven out of eight maternal trees of S. xylocarpa, and an average of 32.7% seeds collected from maternal trees of S. xylocarpa were hybrids. The paternity of 93 out of 249 seedlings from S. xylocarpa assigned to S. rehderiana provided convincing evidence that spontaneous interspecific hybridization occurred extensively in the living garden collection we studied. Different patterns of pollen dispersal (predominantly short-distance vs. long-distance pollination) were observed between intra- and interspecific hybridization events in the garden. Pollen dispersal within the ex situ populations was not restricted by distance, as evidenced by a lack of significant correlations between the average effective pollen dispersal distance () and the geographic distances (d1 and d2) between maternal and paternal trees. The interspecific pollen-dispersal distance ranged from 10 to 620.1 m (mean 294.4 m). Such extensive hybridization in ex situ collections could jeopardize the genetic integrity of endangered species and irrevocably contaminate the gene pool if such hybrids are used for reintroduction and restoration. We recommend strongly that measures be taken to minimize the genetic risks of this kind of hybridization, including establishing buffer zones in ex situ collections, manipulating flowering phenology, testing seed lots before use in reintroduction programs, and controlling pollination for seed purity.
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Keywords: Jack tree; S. rehderiana; Sinojackia xylocarpa; colecciones ex situ; dispersión de polen; ex situ collections; hybridization risks; pollen dispersal; riesgos de hibridación; árbol de Jack

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 1, 2010

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