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Keywords:

  • Amorpha georgiana;
  • bottleneck;
  • conservation genetics;
  • Fabaceae;
  • hybridization;
  • population structure

Abstract

Amorpha georgiana (Fabaceae) is an endangered legume species found in longleaf pine savannas in the Southeastern United States. Approximately 900 individuals and 14 populations remain, most of which are concentrated in North Carolina. Eleven microsatellite loci were used to explore genetic diversity, population structure and recent population bottlenecks using genotypic data from 132 individuals collected at ten different localities. Although A. georgiana is quite rare, it exhibited high levels of genetic diversity (17.7 alleles/locus; Ho = 0.65, HE = 0.75). Most of the genetic variation was found within rather than between populations of this species. The single remaining Georgia population was well differentiated from populations of the Carolinas (FST > 0.1), which had weaker structure among them (FST < 0.1). Only a geographically disjunct population showed strong evidence of a recent population bottleneck, perhaps due to a recent founder event. Hybridization with A. herbacea was also detected. For conservation management plans, A. georgiana populations in each geographic region (North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia) plus a disjunct population in North Carolina (Holly Shelter) should be treated as separate management units for which in situ conservation, including habitat restoration and use of prescribed burns, should ensure persistence of this species and preservation of its evolutionary potential.