Journal Article

Contemporary gene flow and mating system of <i>Arabis alpina</i> in a Central European alpine landscape

D. Buehler, R. Graf, R. Holderegger and F. Gugerli

in Annals of Botany

Published on behalf of The Annals of Botany Company

Volume 109, issue 7, pages 1359-1367
Published in print June 2012 | ISSN: 0305-7364
Published online April 2012 | e-ISSN: 1095-8290 | DOI:
Contemporary gene flow and mating system of Arabis alpina in a Central European alpine landscape

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  • Ecology and Conservation
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Plant Sciences and Forestry


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Background and Aims

Gene flow is important in counteracting the divergence of populations but also in spreading genes among populations. However, contemporary gene flow is not well understood across alpine landscapes. The aim of this study was to estimate contemporary gene flow through pollen and to examine the realized mating system in the alpine perennial plant, Arabis alpina (Brassicaceae).


An entire sub-alpine to alpine landscape of 2 km2 was exhaustively sampled in the Swiss Alps. Eighteen nuclear microsatellite loci were used to genotype 595 individuals and 499 offspring from 49 maternal plants. Contemporary gene flow by pollen was estimated from paternity analysis, matching the genotypes of maternal plants and offspring to the pool of likely father plants. Realized mating patterns and genetic structure were also estimated.

Key Results

Paternity analysis revealed several long-distance gene flow events (≤1 km). However, most outcrossing pollen was dispersed close to the mother plants, and 84 % of all offspring were selfed. Individuals that were spatially close were more related than by chance and were also more likely to be connected by pollen dispersal.


In the alpine landscape studied, genetic structure occurred on small spatial scales as expected for alpine plants. However, gene flow also covered large distances. This makes it plausible for alpine plants to spread beneficial alleles at least via pollen across landscapes at a short time scale. Thus, gene flow potentially facilitates rapid adaptation in A. alpina likely to be required under ongoing climate change.

Keywords: Alpine; Arabis alpina; contemporary gene flow; genetic structure; mating system; paternity analysis; pollen dispersal; spatial autocorrelation

Journal Article.  6571 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Ecology and Conservation ; Evolutionary Biology ; Plant Sciences and Forestry

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