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Spatial genetic structure of Sorbus torminalis: The extent of clonal reproduction in natural stands of a rare tree species with a scattered distribution
journal contributionposted on 10.02.2021, 22:47 by Susan Hoebee, C Menn, P Rotach, R Finkeldey, R Holderegger
Distinct spatial genetic structure, as the result of various evolutionary and ecological processes, is a common feature of tree populations. The rare pioneer forest tree Sorbus torminalis occurs in scattered populations of low density and exhibits both clonal propagation and gametophytic self-incompatibility. Clonal reproduction can promote considerable spatial genetic structure and, together with a self-incompatibility system, may substantially reduce mating opportunities within S. torminalis populations, i.e. an Allee-effect owing to mate limitation. All 10 S. torminalis stands mapped in northern Switzerland and analysed with allozymes showed a considerable degree of clonal reproduction, but they were also characterised by large numbers of genotypes that occurred only once. However, spatial autocorrelation analysis revealed significant spatial genetic structure at distances between 15 and 30 m as the result of clonal reproduction. Once the effect of clonal propagation was removed from the analysis, the stands no longer exhibited significant spatial autocorrelation. This implies that seed dispersal was not locally restricted. The degree of clonal reproduction was neither correlated with population size, nor did smaller populations exhibit less genetic diversity. Because clonal patches were rather small and interspersed with other genetically unique and unrelated individuals, clonal reproduction seemed to have no negative impact on the species' sexual reproduction. It is thus likely that the combination of an effective self-incompatibility system and high interstand gene flow helps to maintain genetic diversity in S. torminalis stands, while clonal propagation preserves the genetic diversity over time even if environmental conditions become less favourable during the course of succession. © 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.