Intense land use and river regulations have led to the destruction of wetland habitats in the past 150 years. One plant that is affected by the reduction in appropriate habitats is the macrophyte Stratiotes aloides
which has become rare in several areas. The preservation of genetic diversity within a species is a prerequisite for survival under changing environmental conditions. To evaluate the level of genetic diversity within and among populations of Stratiotes aloides
, we investigated samples from waterbodies across Europe using AFLP. Low genetic diversity among samples from the same population was found, proving that stands consist of few clones which propagate clonally. Nevertheless, most populations showed differences compared to other populations indicating that there is genetic diversity within the species. The analyzed samples formed two groups in STRUCTURE analyses. The two groups can be further subdivided and mainly follow the major river systems. For conserving the genetic diversity of Stratiotes aloides
, it would thus be preferable to focus on conserving individuals from many different populations rather than conserving selected populations with a higher number of individuals per population. For reintroductions, samples from the same river system could serve as founder individuals.
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