Low genetic diversity and potential inbreeding in an isolated population of alder buckthorn (Frangula alnus) following a founder effect

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Type Article
Original languageEnglish
Article number3010
JournalScientific Reports
Early online date07 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - 07 Jun 2017
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Alder buckthorn (Frangula alnus) is one of Ireland’s rarest tree species, and in Northern Ireland the species is now restricted to a single population in Peatlands Park, Co. Armagh numbering ca. 140 mature trees. Genotyping of 95% of the trees at nine nuclear microsatellite loci revealed that levels of genetic diversity within this population were generally lower than those reported from larger populations in Spain. Analysis of six chloroplast microsatellite loci revealed no variation. The level of F IS was significantly higher than that in the Spanish populations, as well as in other populations across Europe, potentially indicating inbreeding. Spatial autocorrelation analysis indicated some evidence of fine-scale genetic structuring, most likely due to limited seed dispersal, but the overall level of differentiation between subpopulations was low, indicating high levels of gene flow, probably due to cross-pollination by bees. Our results are consistent with a gradual population expansion from a limited number of individuals. We suggest that more immediate conservation efforts might be best focused on ensuring suitable habitat for the continued recovery of this isolated population