Genetic variation within plant species is determined by a number of factors such as reproductive mode, breeding system, life history traits and climatic events. In alpine regions, plants experience heterogenic abiotic conditions that influence the population's genetic structure. The aim of this study was to investigate the genetic structure and phylogeographic history of the subalpine shrub Rhododendron ferrugineum across the Pyrenees and the links between the populations in the Pyrenees, the Alps and Jura Mountains. We used 27 microsatellite markers to genotype 645 samples from 29 Pyrenean populations, three from the Alps and one from the Jura Mountains. These data were used to estimate population genetics statistics such as allelic richness, observed heterozygosity, expected heterozygosity, fixation index, inbreeding coefficient and number of migrants. Genetic diversity was found to be higher in the Alps than in the Pyrenees suggesting colonization waves from the Alps to the Pyrenees. Two separate genetic lineages were found in both the Alps and Pyrenees, with a substructure of five genetic clusters in the Pyrenees where a loss of genetic diversity was noted. The strong differentiation among clusters is maintained by low gene flow across populations. Moreover, some populations showed higher genetic diversity than others and presented rare alleles that may indicate the presence of alpine refugia. Two lineages of R. ferrugineum have colonized the Pyrenees from the Alps. Then, during glaciation events R. ferrugineum survived in the Pyrenees in different refugia such as lowland refugia at the eastern part of the chain and nunataks at high elevations leading to a clustered genetic pattern. © 2014 Charrier et al.
Charrier, O., Dupont, P., Pornon, A., & Escaravage, N. (2014). Microsatellite marker analysis reveals the complex phylogeographic history of Rhododendron ferrugineum (Ericaceae) in the pyrenees. PLoS ONE, 9(3). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0092976