Managing diversity: Domestication and gene flow in Stenocereus stellatus Riccob. (Cactaceae) in Mexico



Jennifer Cruse-Sanders, Fax: 404-876-7472;



Microsatellite markers (N = 5) were developed for analysis of genetic variation in 15 populations of the columnar cactus Stenocereus stellatus, managed under traditional agriculture practices in central Mexico. Microsatellite diversity was analyzed within and among populations, between geographic regions, and among population management types to provide detailed insight into historical gene flow rates and population dynamics associated with domestication. Our results corroborate a greater diversity in populations managed by farmers compared with wild ones (HE = 0.64 vs. 0.55), but with regional variation between populations among regions. Although farmers propagated S. stellatus vegetatively in home gardens to diversify their stock, asexual recruitment also occurred naturally in populations where more marginal conditions have limited sexual recruitment, resulting in lower genetic diversity. Therefore, a clear-cut relationship between the occurrence of asexual recruitment and genetic diversity was not evident. Two managed populations adjacent to towns were identified as major sources of gene movement in each sampled region, with significant migration to distant as well as nearby populations. Coupled with the absence of significant bottlenecks, this suggests a mechanism for promoting genetic diversity in managed populations through long distance gene exchange. Cultivation of S. stellatus in close proximity to wild populations has led to complex patterns of genetic variation across the landscape that reflects the interaction of natural and cultural processes. As molecular markers become available for nontraditional crops and novel analysis techniques allow us to detect and evaluate patterns of genetic diversity, genetic studies provide valuable insights into managing crop genetic resources into the future against a backdrop of global change. Traditional agriculture systems play an important role in maintaining genetic diversity for plant species.