Genetic evidence of human mediated, historical seed transfer from the Tyrolean Alps to the Romanian Carpathians in Larix decidua (Mill.) forests

Historic transfer of larch from Alpine sources to Southern and Eastern Carpathians has been verified by means of nuclear genetic markers. Tyrolean populations can be differentiated into a north-western and south-eastern group, while Romanian populations are separated according to the Southern and Eastern Carpathians. Low-level introgression from Alpine sources is found in autochthonous Carpathian populations.

Context Large scale human mediated transfer of forest reproductive material may have strongly modified the gene pool of European forests. Particularly in European larch, large quantities of seeds from Central Europe were used for plantations in Southern and Eastern Europe starting in the mid nineteenth century.
Aims Our main objective was to provide DNA marker based evidence for the anthropogenic transfer of Alpine larch reproductive material to native Carpathian populations.
Methods We studied and compared 12 populations (N = 771) of Larix decidua in the Alps (Austria, Italy) and in the Southern and Eastern Carpathians (Romania) using 13 microsatellites.
Results High genetic diversity (He = 0.752; RS = 9.4) and a moderate genetic differentiation (FST = 0.13; G′ST = 0.28) among populations were found; Alpine and Carpathian populations were clearly separated by clustering methods. A Tyrolean origin of plant material was evident for one out of four adult Romanian populations. In the transferred population, a genetic influence from Carpathian sources was found neither in adults nor in juveniles, while the natural regeneration of two Romanian populations was genetically affected by Alpine sources to a minor degree (2.2 and 2.9% allochthonous individuals according to GeneClass and Structure, respectively).
Conclusion Tracing back of plant transfer by means of genetic tools is straightforward, and we propose further studies to investigate gene flow between natural and transferred populations.

Genetic pollution, Genetic swamping, Intraspecific introgression, Microsatellites, Spatial genetic structure

Raffl, H., Konrad, H., Curtu, L.A. et al. Annals of Forest Science (2018) 75: 98.

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Data availability
The data sets generated during the current study are available in the Open Science Framework repository.

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