A relic of the past: current genetic patterns of the palaeoendemic tree Nothofagus macrocarpa were shaped by climatic oscillations in central Chile
Venegas-Gonzalez, Alejandro [Univ Mayor, Fac Ciencias, Hemera Ctr Observac Tierra, Escuela Ingn Forestal, Chile]
Premoli, Andrea C.
Background and Aims The Mediterranean-type forest of central Chile is considered a 'biodiversity hotspot' and a relic of a wider ancient distribution produced by past climatic oscillations. Nothofagus macrocarpa. commonly known as 'roble de Santiago', is a threatened palaeoendemic of this forest, poorly represented in the protected area system. This tree has been repeatedly misidentified as the sister species N. obliqua, which has affected its recognition and protection. Only a few populations of N. macrocarpa remain within a matrix of intensive land use that has been affected by recent forest fires. We tested the hypothesis that current populations of N. macrocarpa are a relic state of a previously widespread range, with the aim of contributing to its identification, its biogeographical history and the design of conservation measures using genetic information. Methods We analysed remnant N. macrocarpa forests using nuclear (nDNA) and chloroplast DNA (cpDNA) sequences, conducted phylogenetic and phylogeographical analyses to reconstruct its biogeographical history, and assessed microsatellites [simple sequence repeats (SSRs)] to determine contemporary patters of diversity within and among all remnant populations. We also examined the degree of past, current and potential future isolation of N. macrocarpa populations using ecological niche models (ENMs). Key Results The species N. macrocarpa was confirmed by nDNA sequences, as previously suggested by chromosomal analysis. Small isolated populations of N. macrocarpa exhibited moderate to high genetic diversity according to SSRs. cpDNA analysis revealed a marked past latitudinal geographical structure, whereas analysis of SSRs did not find such current structure. ENM analyses revealed local expansion-contraction of the N. macrocarpa range during warmer periods, particularly in the northern and central ranges where basal-most cpDNA haplotypes were detected, and recent expansion to the south of the distribution. Conclusions Genetic patterns confirm that N. macrocarpa is a distinct species and suggest a marked latitudinal relic structure in at least two evolutionarily significant units, despite contemporary among-population gene flow. This information must be considered when choosing individuals (seeds and/or propagules) for restoration purposes, to avoid the admixture of divergent genetic stocks.
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