Geographic isolation and climatic variability
contribute to genetic differentiation in
fragmented populations of the long-lived
subalpine conifer Pinus cembra L. in the
Endre Toth, Francine Tremblay, Johann Housset, Yves Bergeron, Christopher Carcaillet.
Genetic processes shape the modern-day distribution of genetic variation within and between populations and can provide important insights into the underlying mechanisms of evolution. The resulting genetic variation is often unequally partitioned within species’ distribution range and especially large differences can manifest at the range limit, where population fragmentation and isolation play a crucial role in species survival. Despite several molecular studies investigating the genetic diversity and differentiation of European Alpine mountain forests, the climatic and demographic constrains which influence the genetic processes are often unknown. Here, we apply non-coding microsatellite markers to evaluate the sporadic peripheral and continuous populations of cembra pine (Pinus cembra L.), a long-lived conifer species that inhabits the subalpine treeline ecotone in the western Alps to investigate how the genetic processes contribute to the modern-day spatial distribution. Moreover, we corroborate our findings with paleoecological records, micro and macro-remains, to infer the species’ possible glacial refugia and expansion scenarios.