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Keywords:

  • allelic richness;
  • canonical trend surface analysis;
  • colonization;
  • gene flow;
  • Geographic Information System

Abstract

California valley oak (Quercus lobata Née) is a seriously threatened endemic oak species in California and a keystone species for foothill oak ecosystems. Urban and agricultural development affects a significant fraction of the species’ range and predicted climate change is likely to dislocate many current populations. Here, we explore spatial patterns of multivariate genotypes and genetic diversity throughout the range of valley oak to determine whether ongoing and future patterns of habitat loss could threaten the evolutionary potential of the species by eradicating populations of distinctive genetic composition. This manuscript will address three specific questions: (i) What is the spatial genetic structure of the chloroplast and nuclear genetic markers? (ii) What are the geographical trends in the distribution of chloroplast and nuclear genotypes? (iii) Is there any part of the species’ range where allelic diversity in either the chloroplast or nuclear genomes is particularly high? We analysed six chloroplast and seven nuclear microsatellite genetic markers of individuals widespread across the valley oak range. We then used a multivariate approach correlating genetic markers and geographical variables through a canonical trend surface analysis, followed by GIS mapping of the significant axes. We visualized population allelic richness spatially with GIS tools to identify regions of high diversity. Our findings, based on the distribution of multivariate genotypes and allelic richness, identify areas with distinctive histories and genetic composition that should be given priority in reserve network design, especially because these areas also overlap with landscape change and little degree of protection. Thus, without a careful preservation plan, valuable evolutionary information will be lost for valley oak.