Anthropogenic and natural causes influencing population genetic structure of Juniperus procera Hochst. ex Endl. in the Ethiopian highlands

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Juniperus procera is economically highly important but threatened tree species. It is the only species among 67 taxa in the genus Juniperus that naturally grows in Africa and south of the equator extending up to 18°S in Zimbabwe. Ethiopia is assumed to host the largest J. procera populations, which are also believed to have high genetic variation owing to their wide ecological amplitude. This study assessed genetic variation at AFLPs of J. procera populations in the Ethiopian highlands. In the study six populations, namely Chilimo, Goba, Menagesha-Suba, Wef-Washa, Yabelo and Ziquala were included. A total of 20-24 trees from each population were investigated based on 128 AFLP band positions. AMOVA revealed that most of the variation (94%) resided within populations of J. procera suggesting extensive gene flow among populations which is attributable to the outcrossing mating system and effective gene transport mechanisms of the species. However, genetic differentiation among populations was still significant (P < 0.05), and the differentiation was significantly (P < 0.05) correlated with geographic distance. All population pairs were significantly (P < 0.05) differentiated except for Menagesha-Suba and Wef-Washa. These two populations also showed the highest gene diversity (Hj = 0.301 and Hj = 0.297, respectively). These results are in accordance with historical records that claim the establishment of the Menagesha-Suba juniper population as plantation of seedlings from Wef-Washa back in fifteenth century. © 2010 The Author(s).

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Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution