• Aster tripolium;
  • genetic diversity;
  • molecular variance;
  • RAPD;
  • Salicornia ramosissima;
  • salt tolerance


Eight populations of Aster tripolium (Compositae) and six of Salicornia ramosissima (Chenopodiaceae) from inland, naturally salt-contaminated habitats and anthropogenic salt-polluted sites in central Germany (Thuringia, Anhalt-Saxony) were analysed using random amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD) markers to investigate the patterns of genetic variation. In both species, the genetic diversity observed in the younger, anthropogenic sites caused by potash mines during the last century was found to be not significantly lower than in the older, naturally salt-contaminated habitats. Therefore, it is speculated that the loss of genetic diversity caused by founder effects on the anthropogenic habitats was balanced by successive colonization events, actual gene flow between populations, or the rapid growth of populations on the secondary habitats after colonization. Analyses of molecular variance (amova) of the RAPD markers, neighbour-joining clustering of populations based on Reynolds’ co-ancestry distances, and Mantel tests indicate that: (i) anthropogenic habitats were colonized independently; (ii) genetic differentiation among populations of S. ramosissima is more pronounced than in A. tripolium, which is considered to be mainly due to biological differences between the two species; and (iii) the geographical pattern of genetic diversity was considerably modulated by historical events and/or population genetic effects.