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Genetic monitoring of translocated plant populations in practice

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Plant translocations allow the restoration of genetic diversity in inbred and depauperate populations and help to prevent the extinction of critically endangered species. However, the successes of plant translocations in restoring genetically viable populations and the possible associated key factors are still insufficiently evaluated. To fill this gap, we carried out a thorough genetic monitoring of three populations of Arnica montana that were created or reinforced by the translocation of plants obtained from seeds of two large natural source populations from southern Belgium. We genotyped nine microsatellite markers and measured fitness quantitative traits over two generations (transplants, F1 seed progeny and newly established F1 juveniles). Two years after translocation, the genetic restoration had been effective, with high genetic diversity and low genetic differentiation across generations, extensive contemporary pollen flow, admixture between seed sources in the F1 generation and recruitment of new individuals from seeds. We detected site, seed source and maternal plant effects on plant fitness. The results also suggest that phenotypic plasticity may favour short‐term individual survival and long‐term adaptive capacity and enhance the evolutionary resilience of the populations to changing environmental conditions. We found no sign of heterosis or outbreeding depression at early life stages in the F1 generation. Our findings emphasize the importance of the translocation design (700 transplants of mixed sources, planted at high density) as well as the preparatory site management for the successful outcome of the translocations, which maximized flowering, random mating, and recruitment from seeds in the first years after translocation.
Original languageEnglish
JournalMolecular Ecology
Pages (from-to)4040-4058
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - 12-Jul-2020


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