Genetic diversity and differentiation follow secondary succession in a multi-species study on woody plants from subtropical China

Created at: 2016-11-03

Envisaged journal: Journal of Plant Ecology

Envisaged date: 2016-11-03


Species diversity and genetic diversity may be affected in parallel by similar environmental drivers. However, genetic diversity may also be affected independently by habitat characteristics. We aim at disentangling relationships between genetic diversity, species diversity and habitat characteristics of woody species in subtropical forest.
We studied 11 dominant tree and shrub species in 27 plots in Gutianshan, China, and assessed their genetic diversity (Ar) and population differentiation (F’ST) with microsatellite markers. We tested if Ar and population specific F’ST were correlated to local species diversity and plot characteristics. Multi-model inference and model averaging were used to determine the relative importance of each predictor. Additionally we tested for isolation-by-distance and isolation-by-elevation by regressing pairwise F’ST against pairwise spatial and elevational distances.
Important findings:
Genetic diversity was not related to species diversity for any of the study species. Thus, our results do not support joint effects of habitat characteristics on these two levels of biodiversity. Instead, genetic diversity in two understory shrubs, Rhododendron simsii and Vaccinium carlesii, was affected by plot age with decreasing genetic diversity in successionally older plots. Population differentiation increased with plot age in Rhododendron simsii and Lithocarpus glaber. This shows that succession can reduce genetic diversity within, and increase genetic diversity between populations. Furthermore, we found four cases of isolation-by-distance and two cases of isolation43
by-elevation. The former indicates inefficient pollen and seed dispersal by animals whereas the latter might be due to phenological asynchronies. These patterns indicate that succession can affect genetic diversity without parallel effects on species diversity and that gene flow in a continuous subtropical forest can be restricted 46 even at a local scale.


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Calculated Authors

Christoph Hahn Walter Durka Markus Fischer Stefan Michalski

Data request state

Preparation Project Board Finished