High genetic diversity and significant population structure in Cedrus brevifolia Henry, a narrow endemic Mediterranean tree from Cyprus

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Endemic island plant species with a narrow distribution are often, but not always, linked to low genetic variation within populations and a lack of differentiation among populations. Cedrus brevifolia is a narrow endemic island tree species of Cyprus. Its range is restricted to a single forest, divided into five neighbouring sites. This study, using biparentally inherited nuclear microsatellites and paternally inherited plastid (chloroplast) microsatellites, assessed the genetic variation of C. brevifolia within its sole population and the level of genetic differentiation among formed sites. The results from both markers showed high diversity (nuclear HT = 0. 70; plastid HT = 0. 93), strongly suggesting that the species did not experience severe bottleneck events or extensive genetic drift. Besides, the maintenance of a high genetic diversity in C. brevifolia may suggest that it originates from a widespread congener species. Significant genetic differentiation at nuclear (GST = 0. 052) and plastid (GST = 0. 119) markers was found among the formed sites. Remarkably, the relatively high genetic differentiation found at plastid markers was comparable to values observed in two widespread congener cedar species. The genetic differentiation probably occurred due to fragmentation of a previously uniform population. This would lead to the shaping of different genetic groups (Bayesian analysis) and to significant population substructure. Furthermore, significant values observed for both isolation by distance and large-scale spatial genetic structure could indicate ineffective gene flow among sites and the early geographical isolation of the more isolated sites from the core population. © 2011 The Author(s).

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Plant Systematics and Evolution