Molecular diversity and derivations of populations of Silene acaulis and Saxifraga oppositifolia from the high Arctic and more southerly latitudes


  • This study was conducted as part of a NERC-funded Special Topic project on the deleterious effects of climatic change on Arctic plant populations. R. J. Abbott and R. M. M. Crawford have undertaken a range of ecological and evolutionary studies as part of this programme. H. M. Chapman and D. G. F a h were employed, respectively, as postdoctoral research assis.

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A survey of allozyme diversity within and between populations of Silene acaulis from Spitsbergen, Norway, Iceland and Scotland, showed that populations from the high Arctic (Spitsbergen, > 76°N) contained high levels of diversity and were genetically similar to populations from more southern locations. Indirect measures of gene flow (Nm), calculated from Wrigh's F indicated that there had been extensive gene flow between Spitsbergen and some Norwegian populations. A restriction site analysis of chloroplast DNA (cpDNA) in S. acaulis revealed that all populations contained a single identical cpDNA haplotype, except one population from Norway which also contained a second haplotype. In contrast, five different cpDNA haplotypes were distinguished in a more limited survey of cpDNA variation in Saxifraga oppositifolia, with all five haplotypes present in one of two Spitsbergen populations surveyed. The contrasting cpDNA results for the two species suggest that whereas high-Arctic populations of Silene acaulis have most likely been derived from immigrants which arrived from the south after the last glacial period, high-Arctic populations of Saxifraga oppositifolia may be derived, in part, from ancient northern stocks which survived the last glaciation in high-Arctic refugia.