In recent years, the native woodlands of Europe, including those of Britain and Ireland, have increasingly come under threat from a range of biotic and abiotic factors, and are therefore a conservation priority demanding careful management in order to realise their inherent ecological and cultural benefits. Because the distribution of genetic variation across populations and regions is increasingly considered an important component of woodland management, we carried out a population genetic analysis on black alder (Alnus glutinosa) across Northern Ireland in order to inform “best practice” strategies. Our findings suggest that populations harbour high levels of genetic diversity, with very little differentiation between populations. Significant F IS values were observed in over half of the populations analysed, however, which could reflect inbreeding as a result of the patchy occurrence of alder in Northern Ireland, with scattered, favourable damp habitats being largely isolated from each other by extensive tracts of farmland. Although there is no genetic evidence to support the broad-scale implementation of tree seed zones along the lines of those proposed for native woodlands in Great Britain, we suggest that the localised occurrence of rare chloroplast haplotypes should be taken into account on a case-by-case basis. This, coupled with the identification of populations containing high genetic diversity and that are broadly representative of the region as a whole, will provide a sound genetic basis for woodland management, both in alder and more generally for species that exhibit low levels of genetic differentiation.
Beatty, G. E., Montgomery, W. I., Tosh, D. G., & Provan, J. (2015). Genetic provenance and best practice woodland management: a case study in native alder (Alnus glutinosa). Tree Genetics and Genomes, 11(5), . https://doi.org/10.1007/s11295-015-0919-1