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: closed (30 June 2021) | Viewed by 12113

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Special Issue Editor

Prof. Dr. Gregor Kozlowski
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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, Shanghai 201602, China
Interests: arctic–alpine disjunctions; conservation biology; biogeography; biodiversity; dendrology; relicts; endemics; threatened species; phylogenetics; phylogeography
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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

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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 (9 papers)

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Research

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Article
Species Delimitation and Conservation in Taxonomically Challenging Lineages: The Case of Two Clades of Capurodendron (Sapotaceae) in Madagascar
Plants 2021, 10(8), 1702; https://doi.org/10.3390/plants10081702 - 18 Aug 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 831
Abstract
Capurodendron is the largest endemic genus of plants from Madagascar, with around 76% of its species threatened by deforestation and illegal logging. However, some species are not well circumscribed and many of them remain undescribed, impeding a confident evaluation of their conservation status. [...] Read more.
Capurodendron is the largest endemic genus of plants from Madagascar, with around 76% of its species threatened by deforestation and illegal logging. However, some species are not well circumscribed and many of them remain undescribed, impeding a confident evaluation of their conservation status. Here we focus on taxa delimitation and conservation of two species complexes within Capurodendron: the Arid and Western complexes, each containing undescribed morphologies as well as intermediate specimens alongside well-delimited taxa. To solve these taxonomic issues, we studied 381 specimens morphologically and selected 85 of them to obtain intergenic, intronic, and exonic protein-coding sequences of 794 nuclear genes and 227 microsatellite loci. These data were used to test species limits and putative hybrid patterns using different approaches such as phylogenies, PCA, structure analyses, heterozygosity level, FST, and ABBA-BABA tests. The potential distributions were furthermore estimated for each inferred species. The results show that the Capurodendron Western Complex contains three well-delimited species, C. oblongifolium, C. perrieri, and C. pervillei, the first two hybridizing sporadically with the last and producing morphologies similar to, but genetically distinct from C. pervillei. The Arid Complex shows a more intricate situation, as it contains three species morphologically well-delimited but genetically intermixed. Capurodendron mikeorum nom. prov. is shown to be an undescribed species with a restricted distribution, while C. androyense and C. mandrarense have wider and mostly sympatric distributions. Each of the latter two species contains two major genetic pools, one showing interspecific admixture in areas where both taxa coexist, and the other being less admixed and comprising allopatric populations having fewer contacts with the other species. Only two specimens out of 172 showed clear genetic and morphological signals of recent hybridization, while all the others were morphologically well-delimited, independent of their degree of genetic admixture. Hybridization between Capurodendron androyense and C. microphyllum, the sister species of the Arid Complex, was additionally detected in areas where both species coexist, producing intermediate morphologies. Among the two complexes, species are well-defined morphologically with the exception of seven specimens (1.8%) displaying intermediate patterns and genetic signals compatible with a F1 hybridization. A provisional conservation assessment for each species is provided. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Genetic Diversity and Conservation of Woody Species)
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Article
Genetic Diversity and Structure of Rear Edge Populations of Sorbus aucuparia (Rosaceae) in the Hyrcanian Forest
Plants 2021, 10(7), 1471; https://doi.org/10.3390/plants10071471 - 19 Jul 2021
Viewed by 1084
Abstract
Sorbus aucuparia (Rosaceae) is a small tree species widely distributed in Eurasia. The Hyrcanian forest is the southernmost distribution limit of this species. Severe habitat degradation and inadequate human interventions have endangered the long-term survival of this species in this region, and it [...] Read more.
Sorbus aucuparia (Rosaceae) is a small tree species widely distributed in Eurasia. The Hyrcanian forest is the southernmost distribution limit of this species. Severe habitat degradation and inadequate human interventions have endangered the long-term survival of this species in this region, and it is necessary to develop and apply appropriate management methods to prevent the loss of its genetic diversity. In this study, we used 10 SSR markers in order to evaluate the genetic diversity of this taxon. Leaf samples were collected from five known populations of S. aucuparia throughout its distribution area in the Hyrcanian forest. Expected heterozygosity ranged from 0.61 (ASH) to 0.73, and according to the M-ratio, all populations showed a significant reduction in effective population size, indicating a genetic bottleneck. Global FST was not statistically significant and attained the same values with and without excluding null alleles (ENA) correction (FST = 0.12). Bayesian analysis performed with STRUCTURE defined two genetic clusters among the five known populations, while the results of discriminant analysis of principal components (DAPC) identified three distinct groups. The average proportion of migrants was 22. In general, the gene flow was asymmetrical, with the biggest differences between immigration and emigration in Barzekoh and Asbehriseh. The Mantel test showed that there was no significant correlation between genetic distance (FST) and geographic distance in S. aucuparia. The best pathway for theoretical gene flow is located across the coast of the Caspian Sea and significant spatial autocorrelation was observed in only one population. In order to reduce the extinction risk of very small and scattered populations of S. aucuparia in the Hyrcanian forest, it is very important to establish and/or enhance the connectivity through habitat restoration or genetic exchange. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Genetic Diversity and Conservation of Woody Species)
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Article
Diversity and Relationships among Neglected Apricot (Prunus armeniaca L.) Landraces Using Morphological Traits and SSR Markers: Implications for Agro-Biodiversity Conservation
Plants 2021, 10(7), 1341; https://doi.org/10.3390/plants10071341 - 30 Jun 2021
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1046
Abstract
Apricot (Prunus armeniaca L.) is an economically important tree species globally cultivated in temperate areas. Italy has an ample number of traditional varieties, but numerous landraces are abandoned and at risk of extinction because of increasing urbanization, agricultural intensification, and varietal renewal. [...] Read more.
Apricot (Prunus armeniaca L.) is an economically important tree species globally cultivated in temperate areas. Italy has an ample number of traditional varieties, but numerous landraces are abandoned and at risk of extinction because of increasing urbanization, agricultural intensification, and varietal renewal. In this work, we investigated the morphological and genetic diversity present in an ex-situ collection of 28 neglected varieties belonging to the so-called “Vesuvian apricot”. Our aim was to understand the level of diversity and the possible link between the promotion of specific fruit types (e.g., by public policies) and the intraspecific variation in apricot. The combination of five continuous and seven categorical traits allowed us to phenotypically distinguish the varieties; while fruit quality-related attributes displayed high variation, both apricot size and skin colour were more uniform. The twelve fluorescent-based Simple Sequence Repeats (SSRs) markers identified cultivar-specific molecular profiles and revealed a high molecular diversity, which poorly correlated with that described by the morphological analysis. Our results highlighted the complementary information provided by the two sets of descriptors and that DNA markers are necessary to separate morphologically related apricot landraces. The observed morphological and genetic differences suggest a loss of diversity influenced by maintenance breeding of specific pomological traits (e.g., skin colour and size). Finally, our study provided evidence to recommend complementary strategies to avoid the loss of diversity in apricot. Actions should pivot on both the promotion of easily identified premium products and more inclusive biodiversity-centred on-farm strategies. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Genetic Diversity and Conservation of Woody Species)
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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
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1323
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
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 819
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
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1110
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
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2167
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 7 | Viewed by 1118
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

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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 6 | Viewed by 1507
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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