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Keywords:

  • chloroplast DNA;
  • conservation genetics;
  • México;
  • mitochondrial DNA;
  • Picea chihuahuana;
  • Picea martinezii;
  • postglacial history

Abstract

Chihuahua spruce (Picea chihuahuana Martínez) is a montane subtropical conifer endemic to the Sierra Madre Occidental in northwestern México. Range-wide variation was investigated using maternally inherited mitochondrial (mtDNA) and paternally inherited chloroplast (cpDNA) DNA markers. Among the 16 mtDNA regions analysed, only two mitotypes were detected, while the study of six cpDNA microsatellite markers revealed eight different chlorotypes. The average cpDNA diversity (H = 0.415) was low but much higher than that for mtDNA (H = 0). The distribution of mitotypes revealed two clear nonoverlapping areas (GST = NST = 1), one including northern populations and the second one including the southern and central stands, suggesting that these two regions may represent different ancestral populations. The cpDNA markers showed lower population differentiation (GST = 0.362; RST = 0.230), implying that the two ancestral populations continued to exchange pollen after their initial geographic separation. A lack of a phylogeographic structure was revealed by different spatial analyses of cpDNA (GST > RST; and samova), and reduced cpDNA gene flow was noted among populations (Nm = 0.873). Some stands deviated significantly from the mutation–drift equilibrium, suggesting recent bottlenecks. Altogether, these various trends are consistent with the hypothesis of a population collapse during the Holocene warming and suggest that most of the modern P. chihuahuana populations are now effectively isolated with their genetic diversity essentially modelled by genetic drift. The conservation efforts should focus on most southern populations and on the northern and central stands exhibiting high levels of genetic diversity. Additional mtDNA sequence analysis confirmed that P. martinezii (Patterson) is not conspecific with P. chihuahuana, and thus deserves separate conservation efforts.