Main content area

Genetic structure and AFLP variation of remnant populations in the rare plant Pedicularis palustris (Scrophulariaceae) and its relation to population size and reproductive components

Schmidt, K., Jensen, K.
American journal of botany 2000 v.87 no.5 pp. 678-689
population genetics, population structure, genetic polymorphism, endangered species, sexual reproduction, habitats, gene flow, seedlings, genetic variation, soil pH, carbon nitrogen ratio, vegetation, botanical composition, genetic markers, seed productivity, amplified fragment length polymorphism, population
We investigated plant reproduction in relation to genetic structure, population size, and habitat quality in 13 populations of the rare biennial plant Pedicularis palustris with 3-28500 flowering individuals. We used AFLP (amplified fragment length polymorphism) profiles to analyze genetic similarities among 129 individuals (3-15 per population). In a cluster analysis of genetic similarities most individuals (67%) were arranged in population-specific clusters. Analysis of molecular variance indicated significant genetic differentiation among populations and among and within subpopulations (P < 0.001). Gene flow (N(e)m) was low (0.298). On average, plants produced 55 capsules, 17 seeds per fruit, and 42 seedlings in the following growing season. The number of seeds per capsule was independent of population size and of genetic variability. In contrast, the number of capsules per plant (P < 0.05) and the number of seedlings per plant (P < 0.05) were positively correlated with population size. The relation between population size and the number of seeds per plant was not significant (P = 0.075). The number of capsules and of seeds and seedlings per plant (P < 0.01) were positively correlated with genetic variability. Genetic variability was independent of actual population size, suggesting that historical population processes have to be taken into account, too. Stepwise multiple regressions revealed additional significant relationships of habitat parameters (soil pH. C:N ratio), vegetation composition, and standing crop on reproductive components. We conclude that populations of P. palustris are genetically isolated and that reproductive success most likely is influenced by population size, genetic variability, and habitat quality. Management strategies such as moderate grazing, mowing, and artificial gene flow should endeavor to increase population size as well as genetic variation.