Evidence for ancient genetic subdivision among recently fragmented populations of the endangered shrub Grevillea caleyi (Proteaceae) – Publication

Abstract of a paper based on work funded in part by the Australian Flora Foundation

TM Llorens, DJ Ayre and RJ Whelan
Department of Biological Sciences, Institute for Conservation Biology, University of Wollongong NSW 2522, Australia
Heredity (2004) 92, 519–526

The genetic effects of population fragmentation cannot be interpreted without understanding the underlying pattern of genetic variation resulting from historic population processes. We used AFLP markers to determine genetic structure and distribution of genetic diversity among populations of an endangered Australian shrub Grevillea caleyi (Proteaceae). Populations that occurred historically on four ridges have new been fragmented to varying degrees, producing some large, relatively pristine populations and very small populations consisting of fewer than 10 adult plants. We found marked population genetic structure (65.9% of genetic variation was among populations) and a significant relationship between genetic and geographic distance (rm¼0.564, P¼0.004). However, only 14% of overall genetic differentiation was attributable to variation among ridges, compared with 52% among populations within ridges. Moreover, genetic diversity within samples of plants did not vary with either population size or degree of isolation. Thus, the present genetic structure of populations is probably almost entirely the product of historical events. Fine-scale structuring within populations prior to fragmentation may have been caused by limited seed and pollen dispersal, despite a complex suite of (mostly avian) pollinators, and a mixed mating system that allows a large amount of selfing. The combined effects of adult longevity and a soil-stored seed bank may have buffered the recently fragmented populations against the effects of dramatic reductions in numbers of adult plants.