Special Issue "Genetic Diversity and Conservation of Woody Species"

A special issue of Plants (ISSN 2223-7747). This special issue belongs to the section "Plant Ecology".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 30 June 2021.

Special Issue Editor

Prof. Dr. Gregor Kozlowski
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
1. Department of Biology and Botanic Garden, University of Fribourg, 1700 Fribourg, Switzerland;
2. Shanghai Chenshan Plant Science Research Center, Shanghai Chenshan Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences, 201602 Shanghai, China.
Interests: conservation biology; conservation biogeography; climate relicts; relict trees; phylogeography; phylogeny; population genetics; conservation status assessments; endemic plants

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Trees and other woody plants, such as shrubs and lianas, form the principal components in forests and many other ecosystems on our planet. Being among the largest and longest-living organisms, they support an immense share of the Earth’s terrestrial biodiversity, providing food and habitats for innumerable microorganisms, epiphytes, invertebrate, and vertebrate species. Woody species are perfect study objects, giving us a link between the past, present, and future. Woody species have also accompanied our own species throughout its evolution. Even today, billions of people depend on trees and shrubs for fuel, medicine, food, tools, fodder for livestock, shade, and watershed maintenance. Woody species therefore have a high scientific, economic, social, cultural, and aesthetic value.

However, the future of many trees and shrubs is uncertain. Ten of thousands of species are threatened by overharvesting, non-native pests and diseases, changes in accelerated land use, and climate warming. Many aspects of their biology, ecology, and biogeography are still unexplored or insufficiently understood. These knowledge shortfalls, concerning their genetic diversity, for example, significantly hinder the development of protection strategies and the elaboration of efficient action plans. This Issue, dedicated to this very diverse group of plants, aims to encourage on-going research and conservation efforts worldwide.

For this Special Issue of Plants, we therefore warmly welcome contributions (original research papers, reviews, perspectives, and opinions) on woody species and their conservation, from different fields of research, such as molecular biology, conservation biology, ecology, biogeography, and physiology.

Prof. Dr. Gregor Kozlowski
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

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Keywords

  • woody species
  • endangered woody species
  • relict woody species
  • phylogeography
  • population genetics
  • genomics
  • landscape genetics
  • dispersal biology
  • seed ecology
  • dendroecology
  • dendroclimatology
  • habitat fragmentation
  • conservation biology
  • conservation strategy
  • conservation prioritizing
  • in situ conservation
  • ex situ conservation

Published Papers (6 papers)

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Research

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Article
Biogeographic Overview of Ulmaceae: Diversity, Distribution, Ecological Preferences, and Conservation Status
Plants 2021, 10(6), 1111; https://doi.org/10.3390/plants10061111 - 31 May 2021
Viewed by 498
Abstract
The elm family (Ulmaceae) is a woody plant group with important scientific, societal, and economic value. We aim to present the first biogeographic synthesis investigating the global diversity, distribution, ecological preferences, and the conservation status of Ulmaceae. A literature review was performed to [...] Read more.
The elm family (Ulmaceae) is a woody plant group with important scientific, societal, and economic value. We aim to present the first biogeographic synthesis investigating the global diversity, distribution, ecological preferences, and the conservation status of Ulmaceae. A literature review was performed to explore the available data for all extant species. Our study made it possible to map the actual global distribution of Ulmaceae with high precision, and to elucidate the centers of diversity, located mainly in China and in the southeastern USA. A detailed comparative analysis of the macroclimatic niche for each species was produced, which shows the general biogeographic pattern of the family and pinpoints the outlier species. The results corroborate recent molecular analyses and support the division of Ulmaceae into two taxonomically, biogeographically, and ecologically well-differentiated groups: the so-called temperate clade with 4 genera and 43 species and the tropical clade with 3 genera and 13 species. The elm family is often described as a typical temperate plant group, however the diversity peak of all Ulmaceae is located in the subtropical zone, and a non-negligible part of the family is exclusively distributed in the tropics. We also noticed that a high proportion of Ulmaceae is linked to humid macro- or microhabitats. Finally, we highlighted that nearly 25% of all Ulmaceae are threatened. Fieldwork, conservation efforts, and research activities are still necessary for this family, particularly for the tropical members and the most endangered species. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Genetic Diversity and Conservation of Woody Species)
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Article
Disentangling Species Delineation and Guiding Conservation of Endangered Magnolias in Veracruz, Mexico
Plants 2021, 10(4), 673; https://doi.org/10.3390/plants10040673 - 31 Mar 2021
Viewed by 361
Abstract
The Mexican state of Veracruz has suffered very high deforestation rates in the last few decades, and despite the establishment of protected areas and conservation projects, primary forest is now mainly persisting in mostly small, scattered, fragmented remnants. New species of Magnolia section [...] Read more.
The Mexican state of Veracruz has suffered very high deforestation rates in the last few decades, and despite the establishment of protected areas and conservation projects, primary forest is now mainly persisting in mostly small, scattered, fragmented remnants. New species of Magnolia section Talauma in this state have been described with little to no reference to the already existing ones, potentially resulting in over-splitting, obscuring their taxonomic delineation and conservation status, and consequently conservation programs. To study the conservation units and their genetic diversity, we here employ 15 microsatellite markers on a highly representative sampling of 254 individuals of what are presumed to be five Magnolia species. The results support at least three species and maximum five main conservation units. We propose downgrading the latter to four, given morphological, ecological, demographical, and geographical considerations. Two out of the three sympatrically occurring species in the rainforest in the Los Tuxtlas volcanic area have weak genetic evidence to be considered separate species. Similarly, the individuals in the Sierra de Zongolica in central Veracruz, who bear a very high morphological and genetic similarity to Magnolia mexicana, have weak genetic evidence to be recognised as a separate species. Nonetheless, the individuals could be identified as Magnolia decastroi based on morphology, and further research including the full range of this species is recommended. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Genetic Diversity and Conservation of Woody Species)
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Article
Towards Conservation of the Remarkably High Number of Daisy Trees (Asteraceae) in Mexico
Plants 2021, 10(3), 534; https://doi.org/10.3390/plants10030534 - 12 Mar 2021
Viewed by 531
Abstract
Mexico is floristically the fourth most species-rich country in the world, and Asteraceae is the most diverse vascular plant family in this country. The species exhibits a wide range of growth forms, but the tree-like habit, appropriately named daisy trees, is heavily underestimated, [...] Read more.
Mexico is floristically the fourth most species-rich country in the world, and Asteraceae is the most diverse vascular plant family in this country. The species exhibits a wide range of growth forms, but the tree-like habit, appropriately named daisy trees, is heavily underestimated, even though slightly different tree definitions are handled. Very little is known about their precise species number or conservation status in Mexico, so we update here the list of known Mexican daisy tree species, summarize their very diverse uses, present a general panorama of their present and future distribution, and discuss their conservation status. A bibliographic review and herbarium study were carried out, carefully curated taxonomical ocurrence maps were prepared for each species, and a climatic suitability modelling approach was used to characterise the spatial patterns of Mexican Asteraceae trees. With 149 daisy tree species, the country ranks second at a global level; within the country, their greatest diversity is found in central and western Mexico. A decrease in diversity is estimated in areas that currently host the highest species richness, whereas the hotspot regions are estimated to show an increase in species diversity, so climate change is not a threat to all Mexican daisy tree species. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Genetic Diversity and Conservation of Woody Species)
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Article
Advancing Timberline on Mt. Fuji between 1978 and 2018
Plants 2020, 9(11), 1537; https://doi.org/10.3390/plants9111537 - 10 Nov 2020
Viewed by 1151
Abstract
Climate change is a major cause of changes in alpine and polar vegetation, particularly at the edges of distributions. In temperate regions, these changes are expected to occur at the timberline of alpine zones. On Mt. Fuji, the highest mountain in Japan, the [...] Read more.
Climate change is a major cause of changes in alpine and polar vegetation, particularly at the edges of distributions. In temperate regions, these changes are expected to occur at the timberline of alpine zones. On Mt. Fuji, the highest mountain in Japan, the timberline is located 2400–2500 m above sea level. Over a 40-year period (1978–2018), we researched changes in the timberline vegetation of Mt. Fuji. A permanent belt transect extending from the upper timberline to subalpine zones was set up in August 1978. Tree diameters and heights were recorded at the establishment of the transect and every 20 years afterwards. Over the 40 years of the study, the timberline advanced rapidly upwards, and the degree of vegetation cover above the timberline increased remarkably. Notably, the expansion of Salix reinii into the upper part of the timberline facilitated the subsequent spread of Larix kaempferi into this zone. Seedlings of L. kaempferi were particularly abundant at the upper timberline and became established on the uppermost part of the slope. The shape of L. kaempferi at the upper timberline changed from a prostrate form to an upright tree form. We conclude that the upward advance of the alpine timberline observed on Mt. Fuji is due to climate change. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Genetic Diversity and Conservation of Woody Species)
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Article
Phylogeny, Taxonomy, and Biogeography of Pterocarya (Juglandaceae)
Plants 2020, 9(11), 1524; https://doi.org/10.3390/plants9111524 - 09 Nov 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 624
Abstract
Relict species play an important role in understanding the biogeography of intercontinental disjunctions. Pterocarya (a relict genus) is the valuable model taxon for studying the biogeography of East Asian versus southern European/West Asian disjunct patterns. This disjunction has not been as well studied [...] Read more.
Relict species play an important role in understanding the biogeography of intercontinental disjunctions. Pterocarya (a relict genus) is the valuable model taxon for studying the biogeography of East Asian versus southern European/West Asian disjunct patterns. This disjunction has not been as well studied as others (e.g., between Eastern Asia and North America). Several phylogenetic studies on Pterocarya have been conducted, but none have provided a satisfactory phylogenetic resolution. Here, we report the first well-resolved phylogeny of Pterocarya using restriction site-associated DNA sequencing data based on the sampling of all taxa across the entire distribution area of the genus. Taxonomic treatments were also clarified by combining morphological traits. Furthermore, fossil-calibrated phylogeny was used to explore the biogeography of Pterocarya. Our results support the existence of two sections in Pterocarya, which is in accordance with morphological taxonomy. Section Platyptera comprises three species: P. rhoifolia, P. macroptera, and P. delavayi. Section Pterocarya also comprises three species: P. fraxinifolia, P. hupehensis, and P. stenoptera. The divergence between the two sections took place during the early Miocene (20.5 Ma). The formation of the Gobi Desert and climate cooling of northern Siberia in the Middle Miocene (15.7 Ma) might have caused the split of the continuous distribution of this genus and the formation of the East Asian versus southern European/West Asian disjunct pattern. Lastly, the divergence between P. hupehensis and P. stenoptera as well as between P. rhoifolia and P. macroptera/P. delavayi (10.0 Ma) supports the late Miocene diversification hypothesis in East Asia. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Genetic Diversity and Conservation of Woody Species)
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Review

Jump to: Research

Review
The Woody Planet: From Past Triumph to Manmade Decline
Plants 2020, 9(11), 1593; https://doi.org/10.3390/plants9111593 - 17 Nov 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1073
Abstract
Woodiness evolved in land plants approximately 400 Mya, and very soon after this evolutionary invention, enormous terrestrial surfaces on Earth were covered by dense and luxurious forests. Forests store close to 80% of the biosphere’s biomass, and more than 60% of the global [...] Read more.
Woodiness evolved in land plants approximately 400 Mya, and very soon after this evolutionary invention, enormous terrestrial surfaces on Earth were covered by dense and luxurious forests. Forests store close to 80% of the biosphere’s biomass, and more than 60% of the global biomass is made of wood (trunks, branches and roots). Among the total number of ca. 374,000 plant species worldwide, approximately 45% (138,500) are woody species—e.g., trees, shrubs or lianas. Furthermore, among all 453 described vascular plant families, 191 are entirely woody (42%). However, recent estimations demonstrate that the woody domination of our planet was even greater before the development of human civilization: 1.4 trillion trees, comprising more than 45% of forest biomass, and 35% of forest cover disappeared during the last few thousands of years of human dominance on our planet. The decline in the woody cover of Planet Earth did not decelerate during the last few centuries or decades. Ongoing overexploitation, land use and climate change have pushed ten thousand woody species to the brink of extinction. Our review highlights the importance, origin and past triumph of woody species and summarizes the unprecedented recent decline in woody species on our planet. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Genetic Diversity and Conservation of Woody Species)
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Planned Papers

The below list represents only planned manuscripts. Some of these manuscripts have not been received by the Editorial Office yet. Papers submitted to MDPI journals are subject to peer-review.

Title: Landscape genomics in tree conservation under a changing climate/environment

Authors: Li Feng; Min Qi; Fang K. Du
Affiliation: 1 School of Pharmacy, Xi'an Jiaotong University, Xi'an 710061, China 2 School of Ecology and Nature Conservation, Beijing Forestry University, Beijing 100083, Beijing
Abstract: Understanding the genetic basis of how species response to changing environment is essential to the conservation and utilization of the species. However, the genetic mechanism of local adaptation is remains largely unknown for long-lived tree species which always have large population size, long generation time, and extensive gene flow. Recent advances of landscape genomics analysis can identify adaptive variation and spatial patterns by reveal the interaction between the genetic variation of species and landscape characteristics, and provide new insights for making tree conservation strategies. In this paper we first defining landscape genomics and briefly summarized series methods of this approaches used in tree conservation. We particular emphasis on the introduction of generalized linear mixed models, multivariate statistical analysis, non-linear models, and calculation tools involved in genotype – environment associations (GEAs) and compare the advantages and disadvantages of these methods. Secondly we review and present existing and emerging methods for landscape genomic studies on tree conservation. Specially, we introduced the newly developed method “Risk of Non-Adaptedness”, which predicts the current and future adaptability of species by combining the allele frequency and the changes in environmental factors. Finally, we provide suggestions on how these approaches can aid in making conservation strategies for tree species under climate change.

Title: Species delimitation in a species complex and impacts on conservation assessment: the case of the arid complex of Capurodendron (Sapotaceae) in Madagascar
Authors: Carlos G. Boluda; Camille Christe; Aina Randriarisoa; Laurent Gautier; Yamama Naciri
Affiliation: Conservatoire et Jardin botaniques (CJB) chemin de l'Impératrice 1 1292 Chambésy Switzerland
Abstract: Reliable conservation assessments are based on the assumption that species are clearly defined units that do not overlap, which is not always the case. In a species complex of the tree genus Capurodendron (Sapotaceae) adapted to the driest regions of Madagascar, a phylogeny using 638 exonic regions revealed that a consolidated species delimitation was not achievable. We present additional advanced methodologies in target capture data (intronic region and short read repeat) to disentangle the complex, demonstrating the limits of the Linnean taxonomy when hybridization and incomplete lineage sorting blur species delimitation. We furthermore explore alternative pathways to conservation assessments for species complexes.

Title: Population genetic structure and biodiversity conservation of a relict and medicinal subshrub Capparis spinosa in arid Central Asia

Authors: Qian Wang 1, *and Hong-Xiang Zhang 1
Affiliation: 1 State Key Laboratory of Desert and Oasis Ecology, Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Urumqi 830011, China
Abstract: As a Tertiary Tethyan relict, Capparis spinosa is a typical wind-preventing and sand-fixing xerophytic deciduous subshrub in arid Central Asia. Due to its medicinal and energy value, this species is at risk of potential threat from human overexploitation, habitat destruction and resource plummet. Our purpose is to evaluate the genetic diversity pattern among 37 geographical distributional populations of C. spinosa and its conservation strategies according to lineage divergences and genetic structure characteristics. Based on SNPs in genomic data generated from dd-GBS sequencing, principal components analysis, maximum likelihood phylogenetic trees and ADMIXTURE clustering were performed, and significant genetic structure and divergence were found. Our results showed that: (1) Six distinct lineages were identified corresponding to geographic locations. Varying levels of genetic diversity existed among them, derived from natural habitat heterogeneity or human-caused environmental destruction. (2) The lineage divergences and morphological differences were influenced by geographic distances, isolated habitats and restricted gene flow under complexity altitudinal and topographic conditions. Finally, for the preservation of the genetic integrity of C. spinosa populations, we suggest that conservation units should be established corresponding to different geographic groups, and attention should be paid to isolated and peripheral populations that are experiencing degression in biodiversity. Simultaneously, monitoring and reducing human interferences, rational and sustainable exploiting biological resources will be beneficial to guarantee the population resilience and evolutionary potential of this xerophyte in response to environmental and climatological changes.

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