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Keywords:

  • conservation biology;
  • Fagus grandifolia;
  • gene flow;
  • isozyme;
  • spatial autocorrelation

Abstract

Genetic recovery of an American beech (Fagus grandifolia) population in deciduous forests that were once pastures was studied using 16 allozyme loci from 410 individuals in a 600 m × 600 m study plot in Maryland, USA. We also examined the spatio-temporal genetic structure of the American beech population at a regional scale. Overall genetic diversity of mature trees was measured by estimating average heterozygosity (H = 0.156). Rare alleles were observed in five loci, Lap, 6Pdgh3, Pgi, Adh1 and Got3. Mature individuals were divided into three size classes based on d.b.h. The genetic component of each size class was compared and it was revealed that several alleles (Pgm-a, 6Pgdh3-a and Lap-b) were shared only in specific size classes. The spatial distribution of the genotypes demonstrated a conspicuous localization in three loci (Aco, Adh1 and Idh). Spatial autocorrelation analyses were carried out among the mature trees for a 20 m interval, and were positive for 0–120 m and negative for >180 m. Distrograms indicated that a unique genetic localization occurs among mature individuals. Seven hundred and seventy-five seedlings in the 10 m × 120 m transect were analyzed to measure gene flow via seed and/or pollen. We obtained a genetic neighborhood area of 1.17 ha and an effective population size of 32.4. The temporal and spatial modes of genetic recovery of the population are discussed in the context of conservation biology.