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High genetic differentiation in the alpine plant Campanula alpina Jacq. (Campanulaceae): evidence for glacial survival in several Carpathian regions and long-term isolation between the Carpathians and the Alps


Michał Ronikier, Fax: +4812 4219790; E-mail:


A survey of amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) and chloroplast DNA (cpDNA) variation was conducted to elucidate the phylogeography of Campanula alpina, a key species of silicicolous alpine grasslands in the Carpathians with a disjunct distribution in the Eastern European Alps. The Carpathians experienced a different glacial history from the Alps: local glaciers were present only in the highest massifs, while alpine habitats extended over larger areas related to their present distribution in this region. We asked: (i) whether in the Carpathians a high-mountain plant exhibits a complex phylogeographical structure or rather signatures of recent migrations, and (ii) whether the disjunct part of the species’ distribution in the Alps resulted from a recent colonization from the Carpathians or from a restricted expansion from separate Eastern Alpine refugia. Our study revealed a clear phylogeographical pattern in AFLPs supported by congruent groups of distinct cpDNA haplotypes. Highest genetic differentiation was observed between the Alps and the Carpathians, indicating a long-term isolation between populations from these two mountain ranges. Further genetic division within the Carpathians suggests that current species’ distribution is composed of several groups which have been isolated from each other for a long period. One genetic break separates Western from Southeastern Carpathian material, which is in line with a classical biogeographical boundary. A further, strongly supported genetic group was identified at the southwestern edge of the Carpathian arch. In the Eastern Alps, genetic traces of glacial survival in separate refugial areas in the calcareous northern part and the siliceous central part were found.