Glaciation and mountain orogeny have generated new ecologic opportunities for plants, favoring an increase in the speciation rate. Moreover, they also act as corridors or barriers for plant lineages and populations. High genetic diversity ensures that species are able to survive and adapt. Gene flow is one of the most important determinants of the genetic diversity and structure of out-crossed species, and it is easily affected by biotic and abiotic factors. The aim of this study was to characterize the genetic diversity and structure of an alpine species, Festuca ovina
L., in Xinjiang, China. A total of 100 individuals from 10 populations were analyzed using six amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) primer pairs. A total of 583 clear bands were generated, of which 392 were polymorphic; thus, the percentage of polymorphic bands (PPB) was 67.24%. The total and average genetic diversities were 0.2722 and 0.2006 (0.1686–0.2225), respectively. The unweighted group method with arithmetic mean (UPGMA) tree, principal coordinates analysis (PCoA) and Structure analyses revealed that these populations or individuals could be clustered into two groups. The analysis of molecular variance analysis (AMOVA) suggested that most of the genetic variance existed within a population, and the genetic differentiation (Fst) among populations was 20.71%. The Shannon differentiation coefficient (G’st) among populations was 0.2350. Limited gene flow (Nm = 0.9571) was detected across all sampling sites. The Fst and Nm presented at different levels under the genetic barriers due to fragmentation. The population genetic diversity was significant relative to environmental factors such as temperature, altitude and precipitation.
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