Plant genetic resource conservation strategies, informed by an understanding of the geographical distribution of genetic variation within species, are likely to result in a wider representation of conserved diversity in ex situ gene banks and in situ genetic reserves. The main objective of this study was to map the geographical distribution of genetic variation, as revealed by randomly amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPDs), in four wild relatives of the cultivated lentil, namely Lens culinaris ssp. orientalis, L. odemensis, L. ervoides and L. nigricans. Areas of high diversity and unique diversity were located for each taxon, and regions where further germplasm collection was most likely to yield novel genetic variation were identified. There were centres of diversity for L. culinaris ssp. orientalis in southeast Turkey and northwest Syria, and in south Syria and Jordan. A centre of diversity was found to exist in Sweida province, south Syria, for L. odemensis, and for L. ervoides along the coastal border region between Syria and Turkey stretching down along the Syrian coast. There was a centre of diversity for L. nigricans in west Turkey. Analytical techniques previously used at the species level were found to be useful at the genotypic level to objectively target areas for future collection missions, to increase diversity in ex situ collections and to target areas for in situ conservation.
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