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Keywords:

  • Conservation strategies;
  • gene flow;
  • habitat fragmentation;
  • spatial genetic structure

Abstract

Populations of Sinojackia rehderiana are highly threatened and have small and scattered distribution due to habitat fragmentation and human activities. Understanding changes in genetic diversity, the fine-scale spatial genetic structure (SGS) at different life stages and gene flow of S. rehderiana is critical for developing successful conservation strategies for fragmented populations of this endangered species. In this study, 208 adults, 114 juveniles and 136 seedlings in a 50 × 100-m transect within an old-growth forest were mapped and genotyped using eight microsatellite makers to investigate the genetic diversity and SGS of this species. No significant differences in genetic diversity among different life-history stages were found. However, a significant heterozygote deficiency in adults and seedlings may result from substantial biparental inbreeding. Significant fine-scale spatial structure was found in different life-history stages within 19 m, suggesting that seed dispersal mainly occurred near a mother tree. Both historical and contemporary estimates of gene flow (13.06 and 16.77 m) indicated short-distance gene dispersal in isolated populations of S. rehderiana. The consistent spatial structure revealed in different life stages is most likely the result of limited gene flow. Our results have important implications for conservation of extant populations of S. rehderiana. Measures for promoting pollen flow should be taken for in situ conservation. The presence of a SGS in fragmented populations implies that seeds for ex situ conservation should be collected from trees at least 19-m apart to reduce genetic similarity between neighbouring individuals.