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Molecular evidence for glacial refugia of mountain plants in the European Alps

Authors

  • P. SCHÖNSWETTER,

    Corresponding author
    1. Institute of Botany, University of Vienna, A-1030 Vienna, Austria and National Centre for Biosystematics, Natural History Museum, University of Oslo, N-0318 Oslo, Norway,
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  • I. STEHLIK,

    1. Institute of Systematic Botany, University of Zurich, CH-8008 Zurich, Switzerland and Department of Botany, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada M5S 3B2,
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  • R. HOLDEREGGER,

    1. Division of Environmental and Evolutionary Biology, University of St Andrews, St Andrews KY16 9TH, UK and WSL Swiss Federal Research Institute, CH-8903 Birmensdorf, Switzerland
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  • A. TRIBSCH

    1. Institute of Botany, University of Vienna, A-1030 Vienna, Austria and National Centre for Biosystematics, Natural History Museum, University of Oslo, N-0318 Oslo, Norway,
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P. Schönswetter, Fax: +43-1-4277-9541, E-mail: peter.schoenswetter@univie.ac.at

Abstract

Many mountain ranges have been strongly glaciated during the Quaternary ice ages, and the locations of glacial refugia of mountain plants have been debated for a long time. A series of detailed molecular studies, investigating intraspecific genetic variation of mountain plants in the European Alps, now allows for a first synopsis. A comparison of the phylogeographic patterns with geological and palaeoenvironmental data demonstrates that glacial refugia were located along the southwestern, southern, eastern and northern border of the Alps. Additional glacial refugia were present in central Alpine areas, where high-elevation plants survived the last glaciation on ice-free mountain tops. The observed intraspecific phylogeographies suggest general patterns of glacial survival, which conform to well-known centres of Alpine species diversity and endemism. This implies that evolutionary or biogeographic processes induced by climatic fluctuations act on gene and species diversity in a similar way.

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