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Genetic Diversity in a Threatened Wetland Species, Helonias bullata (Liliaceae)

Mary Jo W. Godt, J. L. Hamrick and Susan Bratton
Conservation Biology
Vol. 9, No. 3 (Jun., 1995), pp. 596-604
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2386613
Page Count: 9
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Genetic Diversity in a Threatened Wetland Species, Helonias bullata (Liliaceae)
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Abstract

Genetic variation was examined in Helonias bullata, a threatened perennial plant species that occurs in isolated wetland habitats. Fifteen populations representing the species' geographic range were sampled. Genetic diversity was low for the species (Hes = 0.053) as well as within populations ({Hep = 0.029). Of the 33 allozyme loci examined, 11 (33%) were polymorphic, while on average only 12.8% (4) of the loci were polymorphic within populations. The number of alleles per polymorphic locus was 2.36 for the species and averaged 2.09 across populations. For every genetic parameter calculated, variation in H. bullata was lower than that typically found for narrowly distributed plant species. The lowest levels of genetic diversity were found in northern areas that were colonized following the last glacial epoch. The number of genotypes detected per population ranged from three to 21, with a mean of 13 for this clonally reproducing species. We found a relatively high proportion of total genetic diversity (30.6%) among populations and a significant correlation (p < 0.002) between genetic distance and geographic distance. Genetic drift phenomena appear to play a major role in the population genetics of this species. Anomalously, several populations that appeared most limited in size and vigor were genetically most variable, perhaps because they represent older, relictual populations. Life-history characteristics of H. bullata coupled with low levels of genetic diversity and the degradation and disappearance of wetlands threaten the existence of this species.

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