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Keywords:

  • clonal structure;
  • inbreeding depression;
  • microsatellite;
  • spatial autocorrelation;
  • star magnolia;
  • threatened species

Abstract

To establish a baseline for conservation of a threatened clonal tree, Magnolia tomentosa, we investigated size distribution and genetic structure within a population, using six microsatellite markers. Within the study site, 1044 living ramets (stems) were distinguished into 175 genets (individuals). The mean number of ramets per genet was 5.97, and 76% of all genets had multiple ramets. Genets, which apparently produced new ramets through sprouting and layering, were generally composed of several large ramets and many small ramets. Spatial autocorrelation analysis of microsatellite alleles revealed positive autocorrelation over short distances for both ramets and genets. The Moran's I-value of ramets in the shortest distance class was 3.8 times larger than that of genets, reflecting the effect of clonal growth. To analyse the size-class differences in genetic structure, the 175 genets were separated into two size classes, small and large. The correlogram for the small genets exhibited positive spatial autocorrelation in the shortest distance class, but this was not the case for the correlogram for the large genets, indicating that genetic structure is weakened or lost through self-thinning as the genets grow. The FIS value over all loci for the small genets was positive and deviated significantly from zero, while the corresponding value for the large genets was close to zero. The excess homozygotes in the small genets may be the result of genetic substructuring and/or inbreeding, and the reduction in homozygote frequency from the small to large genets may be because of loss of genetic structure and/or inbreeding depression.