We investigated the distribution of genetic variation within and between seven subpopulations in a riparian population of Silene tatarica in northern Finland by using amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) markers. A Bayesian approach-based clustering program indicated that the marker data contained not only one panmictic population, but consisted of seven clusters, and that each original sample site seems to consist of a distinct subpopulation. A coalescent-based simulation approach shows recurrent gene flow between subpopulations. Relative high FST values indicated a clear subpopulation differentiation. However, amova analysis and UPGMA-dendrogram did not suggest any hierarchical regional structuring among the subpopulations. There was no correlation between geographical and genetic distances among the subpopulations, nor any correlation between the subpopulation census size and amount of genetic variation. Estimates of gene flow suggested a low level of gene flow between the subpopulations, and the assignment tests proposed a few long-distance bidirectional dispersal events between the subpopulations. No apparent difference was found in within-subpopulation genetic diversity among upper, middle and lower regions along the river. Relative high amounts of linkage disequilibrium at subpopulation level indicated recent population bottlenecks or admixture, and at metapopulation levels a high subpopulation turnover rate. The overall pattern of genetic variation within and between subpopulations also suggested a 'classical' metapopulation structure of the species suggested by the ecological surveys.
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