We examined spatial genetic structure within eight populations of Sitka spruce classified as core or peripheral based on ecological niche, and continuous or disjunct based on species distribution. In each population, 200 trees were spatially mapped and genotyped for eight cDNA-based sequence tagged site (STS) codominant markers. Spatial autocorrelation was assessed by estimating pij, the average co-ancestry coefficient, between individuals within distance intervals. The distribution of alleles and genotypes within core populations was almost random, with nonsignificant co-ancestry values among trees as close as 50 m in core populations. In contrast, the distribution of alleles and genotypes within peripheral populations revealed an aggregation of similar multilocus genotypes, with co-ancestry values greater than 0.20 among trees up to 50 m apart and significant, positive values between trees up to 500 m. The relatively high density of reproductive adults in core populations may lead to highly overlapping seed shadows that limit development of spatial genetic structure. However, in peripheral populations with a lower density of adults, the distribution of alleles and genotypes was highly structured, likely due to offspring establishment near maternal trees and subsequent biparental inbreeding, as well as more recent population establishment at the leading edge of post-Pleistocene range expansion. Conserving genetic diversity in peripheral populations may require larger reserves for in situ conservation than required in core populations. These data on spatial genetic structure can be used to provide guidance for sampling strategies for both ex situ conservation and research collections.
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