Effects of forest plantations on the genetic composition of conspecific native Aleppo pine populations

Authors

  • O. STEINITZ,

    1. Movement Ecology Laboratory, Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior, The Alexander Silberman Institute of Life Sciences, Edmond J. Safra Campus, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 91904 Jerusalem, Israel
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  • J. J. ROBLEDO-ARNUNCIO,

    1. Departamento de Ecología y Genética Forestal, Centro de Investigación Forestal (CIFOR) – INIA, Ctra. de la Coruña Km 7.5, 28040 Madrid, Spain
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  • R. NATHAN

    1. Movement Ecology Laboratory, Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior, The Alexander Silberman Institute of Life Sciences, Edmond J. Safra Campus, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 91904 Jerusalem, Israel
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Ofer Steinitz, Fax: 972 2 6584655; E-mail: ofer.steinitz@mail.huji.ac.il

Abstract

Afforestation is a common and widespread management practice throughout the world, yet its implications for the genetic diversity of native populations are still poorly understood. We examined the effect of Aleppo pine (Pinus halepensis) plantations on the genetic composition of nearby conspecific native populations. We focused on two native populations in Israel with different levels of isolation from the surrounding plantations and compared the genetic diversity of naturally established young trees within the native populations with that of local native adults, using nine nuclear microsatellite markers. We found that the genetic composition of the recruits was significantly different from that of local adults in both populations, with allelic frequency changes between generations that could not be ascribed to random drift, but rather to substantial gene flow from the surrounding planted Aleppo pine populations. The more isolated population experienced a lower gene-flow level (22%) than the less isolated population (49%). The genetic divergence between native populations at the adult-tree stage (Fst = 0.32) was more than twice as high as that of the young trees naturally established around native adults (Fst = 0.15). Our findings provide evidence for a rapid genetic homogenization process of native populations following the massive planting efforts in the last decades. These findings have important implications for forest management and nature conservation and constitute a warning sign for the risk of translocation of biota for local biodiversity.

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