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Genetic diversity assessment of Helichrysum arenarium (Asteraceae) for the genetic restoration of declining populations

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Helichrysum arenarium (L.) Moench (Asteraceae) is a self-compatible, insect-pollinated herb occurring in sand grasslands, and is declining and endangered in many parts of its European distribution range. A recovery plan of H. arenarium has been conducted in southern Belgium, involving plant translocations. We developed multiplex genotyping protocol for nine microsatellite markers previously published for Helichrysum italicum and two newly developed microsatellite markers for H. arenarium. Eleven polymorphic loci were associated (pooled) in two multiplex panels, to assess the genetic status of the only small remaining population in Belgium and of three large German populations used as seed source for propagating transplants. The small Belgian population was characterized by high clonality, with only two, however heterozygous, genets detected. The three large German populations showed high genetic diversity (He ranging from 0.635 to 0.670) and no significant inbreeding coefficient values, despite expectations of geitonogamous selfing. Management practices (grazing livestock) increasing seed dispersal distances, inbreeding depression at early stages of development, and mechanisms preventing or delaying selfing might be hypothesized to explain the observed patterns. The two Belgian genotypes remained within genetic variation range of German populations so that the high genetic differentiation between Belgian and German populations (FST values ranging from 0.186 to 0.206) likely resulted from genetic drift effects and small sample size. Transplants obtained from seeds sampled from the three large source populations from Germany constitute a highly diverse, noninbred gene pool, and are thus of high genetic quality for plant translocations.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere10953
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number2
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 15-Feb-2024



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