A spatial stream-network approach assists in managing the remnant genetic diversity of riparian forests

António Albuquerque, Tiago Monteiro-Henriques, Carla Faria, Joana B. Guimarães, Diogo Mendonça, Fernanda Simões, Maria Teresa Ferreira, Ana Mendes, José Matos, Maria Helena Almeida

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Quantifying the genetic diversity of riparian trees is essential to understand their chances to survive hydroclimatic alterations and to maintain their role as foundation species modulating fluvial ecosystem processes. However, the application of suitable models that account for the specific dendritic structure of hydrographic networks is still incipient in the literature. We investigate the roles of ecological and spatial factors in driving the genetic diversity of Salix salviifolia, an Iberian endemic riparian tree, across the species latitudinal range. We applied spatial stream-network models that aptly integrate dendritic features (topology, directionality) to quantify the impacts of multiple scale factors in determining genetic diversity. Based on the drift hypothesis, we expect that genetic diversity accumulates downstream in riparian ecosystems, but life history traits (e.g. dispersal patterns) and abiotic or anthropogenic factors (e.g. drought events or hydrological alteration) might alter expected patterns. Hydrological factors explained the downstream accumulation of genetic diversity at the intermediate scale that was likely mediated by hydrochory. The models also suggested upstream gene flow within basins that likely occurred through anemophilous and entomophilous pollen and seed dispersal. Higher thermicity and summer drought were related to higher population inbreeding and individual homozygosity, respectively, suggesting that increased aridity might disrupt the connectivity and mating patterns among and within riparian populations.
Original languageEnglish
Article number6741
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2019

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