POSTFIRE RESPONSE AND GENETIC DIVERSITY IN ERICA COCCINEA: CONNECTING POPULATION DYNAMICS AND DIVERSIFICATION IN A BIODIVERSITY HOTSPOT

Authors

  • José Gabriel Segarra-Moragues,

    1. ARAID-UZ. Departamento de Agricultura y Economía Agraria, Escuela Politécnica Superior de Huesca, Universidad de Zaragoza. Carretera de Cuarte, Km 1, E-22071 Huesca, Spain
    2. E-mail: j.gabriel.segarra@uv.es
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    • Present address: Centro de Investigaciones sobre Desertificación (CIDE, CSIC-UV-GV), Camí de la Marjal s/n, E-46470 Albal (Valencia), Spain

  • Fernando Ojeda

    1. Departamento de Biología, Universidad de Cádiz, Campus Río San Pedro, E-11510 Puerto Real, Spain
    2. E-mail: fernando.ojeda@uca.es
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Abstract

Understanding the processes of biological diversification is a central topic in evolutionary biology. The South African Cape fynbos, one of the major plant biodiversity hotspots out of the tropics, has prompted several hypotheses about the causes of generation and maintenance of biodiversity. Fire has been traditionally invoked as a key element to explain high levels of biodiversity in highly speciose fynbos taxa, such as the genus Erica. In this study, we have implemented a microevolutionary approach to elucidate how plant-response to fire may contribute to explain high levels of diversification in Erica. By using microsatellite markers, we investigated the genetic background of seeder (fire-sensitive) and resprouter (fire-resistant) populations of the fynbos species Erica coccinea. We found higher within-population genetic diversity and higher among-population differentiation in seeder populations and interpreted these higher levels of genetic diversification as a consequence of the comparatively shorter generation times and faster population turnover in the seeder form of this species. Considering that genetic divergence among populations may be seen as the initial step to speciation, the parallelism between these results and the pattern of biodiversity at the genus level offers stimulating insights into understanding causes of speciation of the genus Erica in the Cape fynbos.

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