Title Genetic diversity, phenotypic variation and local adapataion in the alpine landscape: case studies with alpine plant species
Author/s Stöcklin Jürg, Kuss Patrick, Pluess Andrea R
Year 2009
Journal Botanica Helvetica 119: DOI 10.1007/s00035-009-0065-1
Abstract Plant survival in alpine landscapes is constantly challenged by the harsh and often unpredictable environmental conditions. Steep environmental gradients and patchy distribution of habitats lead to small size and spatial isolation of populations and restrict gene flow. Agricultural land use has further increased the diversity of habitats below and above the treeline. We studied the consequences of the highly structured alpine landscape for evolutionary processes in four study plants: Epilobium fleischeri, Geum reptans, Campanula thyrsoides and Poa alpina. The main questions were: (1) How is genetic diversity distributed within and among populations and is it affected by altitude, population size or land use? (2) Do reproductive traits such as allocation to sexual or vegetative reproduction vary with altitude or land use. Furthermore, we studied if seed weight is increasing with altitude. Within-population genetic diversity of the four species was high and mostly not related to altitude and population size. Nevertheless, genetic differentiation among population was pronounced and strongly increasing with distance. In Poa alpina genetic diversity was affected by land use. Results suggest considerable genetic drift among populations of alpine plants. Reproductive allocation was affected by altitude and land use in Poa alpina and by succession in Geum reptans. Seed weight is usually higher if alpine species are compared with species from the lowland. We conclude, that the evolutionary potential to respond to global change is mostly intact in alpine plants, even at high altitude. Phenotypic variability is shaped by adaptive as well as by random evolutionary processes; moreover plastic responses to growth conditions seem to be crucial for survival of plants in the alpine landscape.
Keywords Altitudinal gradient, clonal reproduction, common garden, gene flow, genetic drift, isolation by distance, microsatellites, RAPD, seed weight
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