Increased genetic diversity via gene flow provides hope for Acacia whibleyana, an endangered wattle facing extinction

Colette Blyth, Matthew J. Christmas, Doug C. Bickerton, Renate Faast, Jasmin G. Packer, Andrew J. Lowe, Martin F. Breed

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

In this paper we apply a conservation genomics approach to make evidence-based management recommendations for Acacia whibleyana, an endangered shrub endemic to Eyre Peninsula, South Australia. We used population genomic analysis to assess genetic connectivity, diversity, and historical inbreeding across all known stands of the species sampling remnant stands, revegetated stands of unknown origin, and a post-fire seedling cohort. Our results indicate a degree of historical connectivity across the landscape, but habitat loss and/or pollinator community disruption are potential causes of strong genetic structure across the remnant stands. Remnant stands had low genetic diversity and showed evidence of historical inbreeding, but only low levels of intra-stand relatedness indicating that risks of contemporary inbreeding are low. Analysis of a post-fire first generation cohort of seedlings showed they likely resulted from intra-stand matings, resulting in reduced genetic diversity compared to the parents. However, admixed seedlings in this cohort showed an increase in heterozygosity relative to likely sources and the non-admixed seedlings of the same stand. Assisted inter-stand gene flow may prove an effective management strategy to boost heterozygosity and corresponding increases in adapting capacity in this endangered species.
Original languageEnglish
Article number299
Number of pages18
JournalDiversity
Volume12
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2020

Bibliographical note

© 2020 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

Keywords

  • conservation genetics
  • endangered species
  • genetic diversity
  • Acacia whibleyana
  • Wattle
  • Extinction
  • Endangered species
  • Genetic diversity
  • Conservation genetics

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