Assessment and integration of genetic, morphological and demographic variation in Hagenia abyssinica (Bruce) J.F. Gmel to guide its conservation

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Assessing and integrating genetic, morphological and demographic variation is instrumental for planning conservation, tree improvement and domestication programs. We discuss the variation of the gravely endangered tropical tree species Hagenia abyssinica in Ethiopia with regard to its morphological and genetic traits as well as its population demography in a conservation context. An analysis of variance (ANOVA) revealed a highly significant differentiation among 22 natural populations of H. abyssinica in all quantitative morphological traits assessed. Multivariate and univariate taxonomic distances of leaf traits among populations are not correlated with the corresponding genetic distances at AFLP markers (multivariate r = -0.03484 at p = 0.3926), showing that the genetic differentiation at AFLPs is not associated with the morphological differences among populations. Chloroplast microsatellite data allowed us to identify lineages and to reconstruct population history, while the AFLP data enabled us to identify populations of high genetic diversity. A weighted-score population prioritisation matrix (WPPM) that integrates genetic, morphological and demographic criteria was developed and used for the first time to prioritise populations for conservation and domestication. Action is needed to launch conservation and domestication programs of H. abyssinica to ensure the long-term survival of the species and to boost its economic and ecological value. © 2010 Elsevier GmbH.

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Journal for Nature Conservation