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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 59(4)

Consequences of long- and short-term fragmentation on the genetic diversity and differentiation of a late successional rainforest conifer

Rohan Mellick A B C , Andrew Lowe B and Maurizio Rossetto A

A National Herbarium of NSW, Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust, Mrs Macquaries Road, Sydney, NSW 2000, Australia.
B Australian Centre for Evolutionary Biology and Biodiversity, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Adelaide, SA 5005, Australia.
C Corresponding author. Email: rohan.mellick@rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au

Australian Journal of Botany 59(4) 351-362 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/BT10291
Submitted: 27 October 2010  Accepted: 13 April 2011   Published: 9 June 2011


 
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Abstract

The east Australian rainforests provide a unique system with which to study historic climate-driven habitat fragmentation. The long life span of rainforest conifers and consequent lag effects on genetic variation, offer insights into demographic stochasticity in small populations and persistence in increasingly fragmented systems. Microsatellite markers were used to investigate the genetic diversity and structure of Podocarpus elatus (Podocarpaceae), a long-lived rainforest conifer endemic to Australia. Twenty-seven populations throughout the east Australian rainforests were screened and two divergent regions separated by the dry Clarence River valley (New South Wales) were discovered. This biogeographic barrier may be referred to as the Clarence River Corridor. Niche modelling techniques were employed to verify the incidence of habitat divergence between the two regions. Significantly high inbreeding was detected throughout the species range with no evidence of recent bottlenecks. Most of the diversity in the species resides between individuals within populations, which suggest the species would be sensitive to the adverse effects of inbreeding, yet evidence suggests that these populations have been small for several generations. Slightly higher diversity estimates were found in the southern region, but it is likely that the species survived historic population contraction in dispersed refugia within each of these genetically differentiated regions.



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