Lack of genetic structure and evidence for long-distance dispersal in ash (Fraxinus excelsior) populations under threat from an emergent fungal pathogen: implications for restorative planting

Gemma E. Beatty, James A. Brown, Eamon M. Cassidy, Caroline M. V. Finlay, Lorraine McKendrick, W. Ian Montgomery, Neil Reid, David G. Tosh, Jim Provan

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Abstract

Genetic analysis on populations of European ash (Fraxinus excelsior) throughout Ireland was carried out to determine the levels and patterns of genetic diversity in naturally seeded trees in ash woodlands and hedgerows, with the aim of informing conservation and replanting strategies in the face of potential loss of trees as a result of ash dieback. Samples from 33 sites across Northern Ireland and three sites in the Republic of Ireland were genotyped for eight nuclear and ten chloroplast microsatellites. Levels of diversity were high (mean A R = 10.53; mean H O = 0.709; mean H E = 0.765) and were similar to those in Great Britain and continental Europe, whilst levels of population genetic differentiation based on nuclear microsatellites were extremely low (Φ ST = 0.0131). Levels of inbreeding (mean F IS = 0.067) were significantly lower than those reported for populations from Great Britain. Fine-scale analysis of seed dispersal indicated potential for dispersal over hundreds of metres. Our results suggest that ash woodlands across Ireland could be treated as a single management unit, and thus native material from anywhere in Ireland could be used as a source for replanting. In addition, high potential for dispersal has implications for recolonization processes post-ash dieback (Chalara fraxinea) infection, and could aid in our assessment of the capacity of ash to shift its range in response to global climate change.
Original languageEnglish
Article number53
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalTree Genetics and Genomes
Volume11
Early online date08 May 2015
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2015

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