Despite variable dynamics of genetic diversification at the different altitudinal levels, strong gene flow tends to standardize larch genetic diversity: the larch forest distributed along the altitudinal gradient can be regarded as a single population.
While in forest tree species many studies focus on the structure of the genetic diversity at the natural range and at the forest stand levels, few studies have worked at intermediate levels like the landscape level. We tried to determine to what degree altitude variation can affect the genetic diversity and the local structure of the genetic diversity of European larch (Larix decidua Miller) at the landscape level. Using microsatellite markers, we determined the between- and within-plot genetic structure and the spatial genetic structure (SGS) of four altitudinal plots distributed between 1,350 and 2,300 m a.s.l. in a European larch forest located in the French Alps. A homogenous neutral genetic structure was detected along this gradient. The intensity of the SGS was found to be stronger at 2,300 m and decreased at the 2,000-m plot. It was low or non-existent at the 1,700- and 1,350-m altitudinal levels. Our results suggest that the genetic structure observed at the landscape level in this European larch forest was only slightly affected by climatic variation, human activities, or historical events. However, the variation of intensity of the SGS within the altitudinal plots indicates the existence of variable genetic dynamics, despite the globally uniform genetic structure along the altitudinal gradient.
Nardin M, Musch B, Rousselle Y, Guérin V, Sanchez L, Rossi J-P, Gerber S, Marin S, Pâques L, Rozenberg P 2015. Genetic differentiation of European larch along an altitudinal gradient in the French Alps. Ann For Sci 72:517–527 doi: 10.1007/s13595-015-0483-8.
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