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Genetic analysis and conservation of 31 surviving individuals of a rare New Zealand tree, Metrosideros bartlettii (Myrtaceae)

Authors


Dr Shane D. Wright. Fax: 64 9373 7417; E-mail: sd.wright@auckland.ac.nz

Abstract

Metrosideros bartlettii (Myrtaceae) is a distinctive and extremely rare tree, endemic to New Zealand, first discovered in 1975. Prior to this study, a total of 19 adult individuals of the species had been reported; these are located in three small forest remnants in the far north of the North Island of New Zealand. Here we describe a total of 31 adult M. bartlettii at the three sites, including 12 individuals newly discovered by us. We analyse the genetic diversity of the species, using microsatellites to examine the chloroplast genome and amplified fragment length polymorphisms (AFLPs) to monitor nuclear variation. The results clearly demonstrate that M. bartlettii is a unique species, distinct from its two closest relatives M. robusta and M. excelsa. Analysis of genetic diversity within the 31 remaining individuals of M. bartlettii showed an average heterozygosity (< H >) of 0.18 and a proportion of polymorphic genes (< P >) of 0.44. Population structure, as shown by 286 AFLP loci, varied between the three geographical sites; the site with fewest individuals, containing two trees, showed some separation from the populations at the other two locations. These two latter sites, by contrast, had highly overlapping AFLP population diversity profiles. The implications of these results for conservation of the species are discussed.

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