Fire and ice: volcanic and glacial impacts on the phylogeography of the New Zealand forest fern Asplenium hookerianum


Lara Shepherd, Fax: 64 4 381 7070; E-mail:


In the Southern Hemisphere there has been little phylogeographical investigation of forest refugia sites during the last glacial. Hooker's spleenwort, Asplenium hookerianum, is a fern that is found throughout New Zealand. It is strongly associated with forest and is a proxy for the survival of woody vegetation during the last glacial maximum. DNA sequence data from the chloroplast trnL-trnF locus were obtained from 242 samples, including c. 10 individuals from each of 21 focal populations. Most populations contained multiple, and in many cases unique, haplotypes, including those neighbouring formerly glaciated areas, while the predominant inference from nested clade analysis was restricted gene flow with isolation by distance. These results suggest that A. hookerianum survived the last glacial maximum in widespread populations of sufficient size to retain the observed phylogeography, and therefore that the sheltering woody vegetation must have been similarly abundant. This is consistent with palynological interpretations for the survival in New Zealand of thermophilous forest species at considerably smaller distances from the ice sheets than recorded for the Northern Hemisphere. Eastern and central North Island populations of A. hookerianum were characterized by a different subset of haplotypes to populations from the remainder of the country. A similar east–west phylogeographical pattern has been detected in a diverse array of taxa, and has previously been attributed to recurrent vulcanism in the central North Island.