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Keywords:

  • China;
  • cpDNA haplotype variation;
  • landscape effects;
  • phylogeography;
  • refugia;
  • Taxus wallichiana

Abstract

We studied the phylogeography of Chinese yew (Taxus wallichiana), a tree species distributed over most of southern China and adjacent regions. A total of 1235 individuals from 50 populations from China and North Vietnam were analysed for chloroplast DNA variation using polymerase chain reaction–restriction fragment length polymorphism of the trnL-F intron-spacer region. A total of 19 different haplotypes were distinguished. We found a very high level of population differentiation and a strong phylogeographic pattern, suggesting low levels of recurrent gene flow among populations. Haplotype differentiation was most marked along the boundary between the Sino-Himalayan and Sino-Japanese Forest floristic subkingdoms, with only one haplotype being shared among these two subkingdoms. The Malesian and Sino-Himalayan Forest subkingdoms had five and 10 haplotypes, respectively, while the relatively large Sino-Japanese Forest subkingdom had only eight. The strong geography–haplotype correlation persisted at the regional floristic level, with most regions possessing a unique set of haplotypes, except for the central China region. Strong landscape effects were observed in the Hengduan and Dabashan mountains, where steep mountains and valleys might have been natural dispersal barriers. The molecular phylogenetic data, together with the geographic distribution of the haplotypes, suggest the existence of several localized refugia during the last glaciation from which the present-day distribution may be derived. The pattern of haplotype distribution across China and North Vietnam corresponded well with the current taxonomic delineation of the three intraspecific varieties of T. wallichiana.