Journal Article

Extensive contemporary pollen-mediated gene flow in two herb species, <i>Ranunculus bulbosus</i> and <i>Trifolium montanum</i>, along an altitudinal gradient in a meadow landscape

Philippe Matter, Chris J. Kettle, Jaboury Ghazoul and Andrea R. Pluess

in Annals of Botany

Published on behalf of The Annals of Botany Company

Volume 111, issue 4, pages 611-621
Published in print April 2013 | ISSN: 0305-7364
Published online February 2013 | e-ISSN: 1095-8290 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/aob/mct021
Extensive contemporary pollen-mediated gene flow in two herb species, Ranunculus bulbosus and Trifolium montanum, along an altitudinal gradient in a meadow landscape

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Background and Aims

Genetic connectivity between plant populations allows for exchange and dispersal of adaptive genes, which can facilitate plant population persistence particularly in rapidly changing environments.

Methods

Patterns of historic gene flow, flowering phenology and contemporary pollen flow were investigated in two common herbs, Ranunculus bulbosus and Trifolium montanum, along an altitudinal gradient of 1200–1800 m a.s.l. over a distance of 1 km among five alpine meadows in Switzerland.

Key Results

Historic gene flow was extensive, as revealed by Fst values of 0·01 and 0·007 in R. bulbosus and T. montanum, respectively, by similar levels of allelic richness among meadows and by the grouping of all individuals into one genetic cluster. Our data suggest contemporary pollen flow is not limited across altitudes in either species but is more pronounced in T. montanum, as indicated by the differential decay of among-sibships correlated paternity with increasing spatial distance. Flowering phenology among meadows was not a barrier to pollen flow in T. montanum, as the large overlap between meadow pairs was consistent with the extensive pollen flow. The smaller flowering overlap among R. bulbosus meadows might explain the slightly more limited pollen flow detected.

Conclusions

High levels of pollen flow among altitudes in both R. bulbosus and T. montanum should facilitate exchange of genes which may enhance adaptive responses to rapid climate change.

Keywords: Elevation; flowering phenology; gene flow; herbs; managed meadows; microsatellites; pollen flow; pollen-pool analysis; Ranunculus bulbosus; Trifolium montanum

Journal Article.  7250 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Plant Reproduction and Propagation

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