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Small-scale patterns in snowmelt timing affect gene flow and the distribution of genetic diversity in the alpine dwarf shrub Salix herbacea
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Biology, Department of Ecology and Genetics, Plant Ecology and Evolution.
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2014 (English)In: Heredity, ISSN 0018-067X, E-ISSN 1365-2540, Vol. 113, no 3, 233-239 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Current threats to biodiversity, such as climate change, are thought to alter the within-species genetic diversity among microhabitats in highly heterogeneous alpine environments. Assessing the spatial organization and dynamics of genetic diversity within species can help to predict the responses of organisms to environmental change. In this study, we evaluated whether small-scale heterogeneity in snowmelt timing restricts gene flow between microhabitats in the common long-lived dwarf shrub Salix herbacea L. We surveyed 273 genets across 12 early-and late-snowmelt sites (that is, ridges and snowbeds) in the Swiss Alps for phenological variation over 2 years and for genetic variation using seven SSR markers. Phenological differentiation triggered by differences in snowmelt timing did not correlate with genetic differentiation between microhabitats. On the contrary, extensive gene flow appeared to occur between microhabitats and slightly less extensively among adjacent mountains. However, ridges exhibited significantly lower levels of genetic diversity than snowbeds, and patterns of effective population size (Ne) and migration (Nem) between microhabitats were strongly asymmetric, with ridges acting as sources and snowbeds as sinks. As no recent genetic bottlenecks were detected in the studied sites, this asymmetry is likely to reflect current metapopulation dynamics of the species dominated by gene flow via seeds rather than ancient re-colonization after the last glacial period. Overall, our results suggest that seed dispersal prevents snowmelt-driven genetic isolation, and snowbeds act as sinks of genetic diversity. We discuss the consequences of such small-scale variation in gene flow and diversity levels for population responses to climate change.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2014. Vol. 113, no 3, 233-239 p.
National Category
Genetics Ecology
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-232992DOI: 10.1038/hdy.2014.19ISI: 000341087900006OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-232992DiVA: diva2:755027
Available from: 2014-10-13 Created: 2014-09-29 Last updated: 2015-11-23Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. On The Big Challenges of a Small Shrub: Ecological Genetics of Salix herbacea L
Open this publication in new window or tab >>On The Big Challenges of a Small Shrub: Ecological Genetics of Salix herbacea L
2015 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The response of plants to climate change is among the main questions in ecology and evolution. Faced with changing conditions, populations may respond by adapting, going extinct or migrating. Fine-scale environmental variation offers a unique mosaic to explore these alternatives. In this thesis, I used ecological surveys, field experiments and molecular methods to study the range of possible responses at a very local scale in the alpine dwarf willow Salix herbacea L. Since gene flow may impact the potential for adaptation and migration, I first explored whether phenological divergence driven by snowmelt patterns impacts gene flow. I found that sites with late snowmelt work as sinks of the genetic diversity, as compared to sites with early snowmelt. I also used a combined approach that looked at the selection, heritability and genomic architecture of ecologically-relevant traits, as well as genomic divergence across the snowmelt mosaic. In this way, I was able to understand which genomic regions may relate to phenological, growth and fitness traits, and which regions in the genome harbor genetic variation associated with late- and early- snowmelt sites. I found that most of the genomic divergence driven by snowmelt is novel and is localized in few regions. Also, Salix herbacea has a strong female bias. Sex bias may matter for adaptation to climate change because different sexes of many dioecious species differ in several functions that may fluctuate with changing conditions. I found that the bias is uniform across environments and is already present at seeds and seedlings. A polygenic sex determination system together with transmission distortion may be maintaining the bias. Overall, fast-evolving microhabitat-driven genomic divergence and, at the same time, genetically-based trait variation at a larger scale may play a role for the ability of S. herbacea to persist in diverse and variable conditions.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2015. 37 p.
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Science and Technology, ISSN 1651-6214 ; 1288
Fine-scale environmental variation, migration, adaptation, snowmelt timing
National Category
Research subject
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-262239 (URN)978-91-554-9337-0 (ISBN)
Public defence
2015-10-28, Zootissalen, Evolutionsbiologiskt centrum (EBC), Norbyvägen 18, Uppsala, 13:00 (English)
SNSF Sinergia Salix
Available from: 2015-10-07 Created: 2015-09-10 Last updated: 2015-11-23Bibliographically approved

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