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Keywords:

  • gene flow;
  • microsatellite genetic marker;
  • parentage analysis;
  • pollen flow;
  • population structure;
  • seedling bank

Abstract

Parentage analysis was conducted to elucidate the patterns and levels of gene flow in Rhododendron metternichii Sieb. et Zucc. var. hondoense Nakai in a 150 × 70 m quadrat in Hiroshima Prefecture, western Japan. The population of R. metternichii occurred as three subpopulations at the study site. Seventy seedlings were randomly collected from each of three 10 × 10 m plots (S1, S2, and S3) on the forest floor of each subpopulation (A1, A2, and A3). Almost all parents (93.8%) of the 70 seedlings were unambiguously identified by using 12 pairs of microsatellite markers. Within the quadrat, adult trees less than 5 m from the centre of the seedling bank (plots S1, S2, and S3) produced large numbers of seedlings. The effects of tree height and distance from the seedling bank on the relative fertilities of adult trees were highly variable among subpopulations because of the differences in population structure near the seedling bank: neither distance nor tree height had any significant effect in subpopulation A1; distance from the seedling bank had a significant effect in subpopulation A2; and tree height had a significant effect in subpopulation A3. Although gene flow within each subpopulation was highly restricted to less than 25 m and gene flow among the three subpopulations was extremely small (0–2%), long-distance gene flow from outside the quadrat reached 50%. This long-distance gene flow may be caused by a combination of topographical and vegetational heterogeneity, differences in flowering phenology, and genetic substructuring within subpopulations.