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Assessing threats and mapping sandal resources to identify genetic 'hot-spot' for in-situ conservation in peninsular India

Nageswara Rao, M., Ganeshaiah, K. N., Uma Shaanker, R.
Conservation genetics 2007 v.8 no.4 pp. 925-935
Santalum album, allozymes, correlation, genetic resources, genetic variation, geographic information systems, geographical distribution, land use change, logging, longitude, natural regeneration, plateaus, trees, India
Santalum album L. is an economically important tropical tree species. Owing to extensive logging, changes in land-use patterns and poor natural regeneration, the natural sandal populations are rapidly dwindling. It is feared that such threats could easily undermine the genetic diversity of sandal populations. Effective measures to prevent such loss are prerequisite. We have developed baseline data on the levels of genetic diversity and its distribution on a geographic scale for sandal in India. Based on Geographic Information System, distribution map of sandal was developed and found that the populations were geographically more concentrated in the Deccan plateau. It was found that, for past 53 years, there was a monotonic decrease in the extraction of sandal in the state of Karnataka, India. Using allozyme markers, the genetic diversity of 19 sandal populations in peninsular India were determined and over all observed heterzygosity (Ho) was found to be 31%. The percent Ho was positively correlated with the density of the sandal populations (r = 0.44) and with increasing longitude it was found to be negatively correlated (r = -0.51). The dendrogram analysis indicated a clear clustering of sandal populations based on their geographic occurrence. The Deccan plateau populations were found to be genetically the most diverse and seemed to represent the 'hot-spot' of sandal genetic resources in peninsular India. Our results have important implications for the conservation strategies for sandal populations in peninsular India and can be applied for the conservation of other taxa as well.