Fine-Scale Spatial Genetic Structure of the Distylous Primula veris in Fragmented Habitats

Authors

  • F. van Rossum,

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    1. Plant Science and Nature Management, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Pleinlaan 2, 1050 Brussels, Belgium
    2. Present address: Department of Vascular Plants, National Botanic Garden of Belgium, Domein van Bouchout, 1860 Meise, Belgium
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  • L. Triest

    1. Plant Science and Nature Management, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Pleinlaan 2, 1050 Brussels, Belgium
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E-mail: fabienne.vanrossum@br.fgov.be

Abstract

Abstract: In Flanders (northern Belgium), the distylous self-incompatible perennial herb Primula veris is common, but mainly occurs in fragmented habitats. Distyly, which favours disassortative mating, is characterized in P. veris by two genetically determined floral morph types (pin or thrum). Using 18 polymorphic loci, we investigated fine-scale spatial genetic structure (SGS) and spatial distribution of the morphs within four populations from two regions that differ in degree of habitat fragmentation. We studied the contributions made by sexual reproduction and clonal propagation and compared the SGS patterns between pin and thrum morph types. Clonal growth was very restricted to a few individuals and to short distances. One population showed a non-random spatial distribution of the morphs. Pin and thrum individuals differed in SGS patterns at a small scale, suggesting intrapin biparental inbreeding, also related to high plant densities. This may be explained by partial self-compatibility of the pin morph combined with restricted seed dispersal and pollinator behaviour. There is an indication of more pronounced SGS when populations occur in highly fragmented habitats. From our findings, we may hypothesize disruption of the gene flow processes if these large populations evolve into patchworks of small remnants, but also a possible risk for long-term population survival if higher intrapin biparental inbreeding leads to inbreeding depression. Our study emphasizes the need for investigating the interactions between the heterostylous breeding system, population demographic and genetic structure for understanding population dynamics in fragmented habitats and for developing sustainable conservation strategies.

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