Living on the edge: The role of geography and environment in structuring genetic variation in the southernmost populations of a tropical oak

J. Ortego, R. Bonal, A. Muñoz, J. M. Espelta

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    © 2014 German Botanical Society and The Royal Botanical Society of the Netherlands. Understanding the factors determining genetic diversity and structure in peripheral populations is a long-standing goal of evolutionary biogeography, yet little empirical information is available for tropical species. In this study, we combine information from nuclear microsatellite markers and niche modelling to analyse the factors structuring genetic variation across the southernmost populations of the tropical oak Quercus segoviensis. First, we tested the hypothesis that genetic variability decreases with population isolation and increases with local habitat suitability and stability since the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM). Second, we employed a recently developed multiple matrix regression with randomisation (MMRR) approach to study the factors associated with genetic divergence among the studied populations and test the relative contribution of environmental and geographic isolation to contemporary patterns of genetic differentiation. We found that genetic diversity was negatively correlated with average genetic differentiation with other populations, indicating that isolation and limited gene flow have contributed to erode genetic variability in some populations. Considering the relatively small size of the study area (<120 km), analyses of genetic structure indicate a remarkable inter-population genetic differentiation. Environmental dissimilarity and differences in current and past climate niche suitability and their additive effects were not associated with genetic differentiation after controlling for geographic distance, indicating that local climate does not contribute to explain spatial patterns of genetic structure. Overall, our data indicate that geographic isolation, but not current or past climate, is the main factor determining contemporary patterns of genetic diversity and structure within the southernmost peripheral populations of this tropical oak.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)676-683
    JournalPlant Biology
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015


    • Ecological niche
    • Genetic diversity
    • Genetic structure
    • Isolation by distance
    • Isolation by ecology
    • Marginal populations
    • Species distribution models


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