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Adding a third dimension to the edge of a species’ range: altitude and genetic structuring in mountainous landscapes

AuthorsHerrera, Carlos M. CSIC ORCID; Bazaga, Pilar CSIC ORCID
KeywordsAltitudinal gradients
genetic differentiation
genetic diversity
Lavandula latifolia
population size
species range limits
Issue DateOct-2007
PublisherNature Publishing Group
CitationHeredity (2008) 100, 275–285
AbstractIn addition to the topographical and ecological barriers, other landscape features may also subtly influence the patterns of gene flow and spatial genetic structuring at species’ borders. This paper focuses on the role played by altitudinal gradients that characterize mountainous landscapes. We formulate and test the hypothesis that when the distribution boundaries of plant species intersect mountainous landscapes, altitudinal gradients in ecological conditions may considerably enhance population subdivision and genetic structuring at the regional level. Using amplified fragment length polymorphism markers, we studied genetic diversity and differentiation in a set of 21 peripheral populations of the evergreen shrub Lavandula latifolia Med. (Labiatae) at its southernmost distribution limit in the Betic mountain ranges of southern Spain. Population size and abundance, and within-population genetic diversity, varied predictably with altitude, being highest at middle elevations and declining steadily towards both the upper and lower altitudinal distribution margins. Genetic differentiation tended to follow the opposite trend. These altitudinal patterns result from variation with elevation in the relative influence of gene flow and drift on the distribution of genetic variation. Genetic drift prevails around the upper and lower altitudinal limits, whereas a situation closer to a drift-gene flow equilibrium exists at the center of the altitudinal distribution. Altitudinal variation in the relative influences of gene flow and drift appears as an essential element in the interpretation of regional genetic structuring of L. latifolia at its mountainous distribution edge, and a factor which may influence the evolutionary potential of peripheral populations and the likelihood of local adaptation.
Publisher version (URL)http://www.nature.com/hdy/journal/v100/n3/pdf/6801072a.pdf
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