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Reconstruction of a beech population bottleneck using archival demographic information and Bayesian analysis of genetic data


Sylvie Oddou-Muratorio, Fax: +33 (0)4 32 72 29 02; E-mail:


Range expansion and contraction has occurred in the history of most species and can seriously impact patterns of genetic diversity. Historical data about range change are rare and generally appropriate for studies at large scales, whereas the individual pollen and seed dispersal events that form the basis of geneflow and colonization generally occur at a local scale. In this study, we investigated range change in Fagus sylvatica on Mont Ventoux, France, using historical data from 1838 to the present and approximate Bayesian computation (ABC) analyses of genetic data. From the historical data, we identified a population minimum in 1845 and located remnant populations at least 200 years old. The ABC analysis selected a demographic scenario with three populations, corresponding to two remnant populations and one area of recent expansion. It also identified expansion from a smaller ancestral population but did not find that this expansion followed a population bottleneck, as suggested by the historical data. Despite a strong support to the selected scenario for our data set, the ABC approach showed a low power to discriminate among scenarios on average and a low ability to accurately estimate effective population sizes and divergence dates, probably due to the temporal scale of the study. This study provides an unusual opportunity to test ABC analysis in a system with a well-documented demographic history and identify discrepancies between the results of historical, classical population genetic and ABC analyses. The results also provide valuable insights into genetic processes at work at a fine spatial and temporal scale in range change and colonization.