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Genetic diversity and structure of remnant Magnolia stellata populations affected by anthropogenic pressures and a conservation strategy for maintaining their current genetic diversity

Tamaki, Ichiro, Setsuko, Suzuki, Tomaru, Nobuhiro
Conservation genetics 2016 v.17 no.3 pp. 715-725
Magnolia stellata, Monte Carlo method, chloroplasts, climate change, fecundity, females, gene flow, genetic variation, genotyping, habitats, males, microsatellite repeats, parents, prediction, rare species, sexual reproduction, trees, Japan
Understanding the factors shaping rare species’ current genetic diversity and structure, particularly the impact of recent anthropogenic pressures, is important in order to develop appropriate conservation strategies based on robust predictions. Thus, we have genotyped all 585 surviving individuals of Magnolia stellata from six remnant populations and seven isolated tree sites in northern Mie Prefecture, Japan, using nuclear and chloroplast microsatellites. Three genetic clusters were detected by STRUCTURE analysis, with an oldest divergence time between pairs within 25 generations according to coalescent analysis. We attribute this recent divergence to recent anthropogenic environmental changes. Evidence of only one significant recent migration event between pairs of the six populations was detected, indicating that most of the remnant populations are isolated now. Their future genetic status was predicted using Monte Carlo simulations, under four scenarios. It declined more than twice as rapidly in a scenario assuming variations in fecundity among both female and male parents than in a scenario assuming no fecundity variations, but strongly improved in a scenario including promotion of migrations between adjacent pairs of populations. These predictions indicate that sexual reproduction of the species should be promoted by providing more suitable habitats and migration between populations should be enhanced by restoring remnant isolated tree sites and extinct populations. In addition, all the remnant populations should be conserved because they host current genetic variation that may be important for coping with future climate change, and they could provide important stepping-stones for gene flow.