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Keywords:

  • chloroplast DNA;
  • fine-scale genetic structure;
  • genetic diversity;
  • glacial refugia;
  • Greece;
  • seed dispersal

Broad-scale plastid (chloroplast) DNA studies of beech (Fagus sylvatica) populations suggest the existence of glacial refugia and introgression zones in south-eastern Europe. We choose a possible refugium of beech in northern Greece, Mt. Paggeo, which hosts a private plastid haplotype for beech, to conduct a fine-scale genetic study. We attempt to confirm or reject the hypothesis of the existence of a small-scale refugium and to gain an understanding of the ecological and topographical factors affecting the spatial distribution of plastid haplotypes in the area. Our results reveal a high haplotype diversity on Mt. Paggeo, but the overall distribution of haplotypes shows no significant correlation with the ecological characteristics of the beech forests. However, the private haplotype is found at high frequencies in beech forests located in or near ravines, having a high spatial overlap with a relict vegetation type occurring in ecological conditions found mainly in ravines. This result emphasizes the importance of topography in the existence of glacial refugia in the wider area. Furthermore, haplotypes originating from two more widespread beech lineages in Greece are found on Mt. Paggeo, indicating a possible mixing of populations originating from a local refugium with populations from remote refugia that possibly migrated into the area after the last glaciation. © 2014 The Linnean Society of London, Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, 2014, 174, 516–528.