Genetic Structure of Rhododendron ferrugineum at a Wide Range of Spatial Scales

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Journal of Heredity



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Rhododendron ferrugineum L. (Ericaceae) is a subalpine shrub found throughout the Pyrenees and Alps at elevations of 1600-2200 m. We examined relationships between genetic and geographic distance, using 115 dominant amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) markers to assess genetic structure over a wide range of spatial scales. We sampled 17 sites with distances of 4 km to more than 1000 km between them. At these scales we detected no association between geographic distance and genetic distance between populations. This suggests that genetic drift and gene flow are not in equilibrium for these populations. This pattern could have resulted from recent and rapid postglacial colonization, from more recent human disturbance, or as a function of frequent and random "natural" long-distance colonization. At two of our sites we used transects (two horizontal and two vertical with respect to slope at each site) to sample at distances ranging from 10 m to more than 5000 m. At this scale we observed a positive relationship between genetic and spatial distance along two vertical transects, one at each site. We hypothesize that isolation-by-distance at this smaller scale is a function of restricted gene flow via seed dispersal.

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