Conservation Genetics

, Volume 19, Issue 5, pp 1185–1198 | Cite as

Contribution of genetics for implementing population translocation of the threatened Arnica montana

  • Fabienne Van RossumEmail author
  • Olivier Raspé
Research Article


Ecological restoration programmes aiming at population recovery of imperilled plant species increasingly involve plant translocations. Evaluating the genetic status of seed source and target populations is essential for designing plant translocation protocols and optimizing recovery success. We developed nine polymorphic microsatellite markers and used three plastid markers to investigate genetic variation and structure of the two last large and six small remaining populations of the self-incompatible, clonally-propagating Arnica montana in southern Belgium and bordering France. The aim of the study was to determine the genetic status of these remaining populations and whether the large populations can be used as seed source for translocations. Most small populations maintained high genetic diversity and showed no inbreeding or a heterozygote excess, which may be explained by high genet longevity thanks to clonal propagation, heterosis, inbreeding depression at early development stages and/or no recruitment. Genotypic diversity was low in small populations, with clonal propagation mainly contributing to rosette production. The number of genets, and therefore effective population size, was often very small, restricting compatible mate availability. The situation is therefore more critical than it seems on the field, and bringing new genetic variation is necessary. Although no polymorphism was found in plastid DNA markers, between-population differentiation based on microsatellite markers was moderate, except for very small populations, where it was greater (FST > 0.200). These patterns of differentiation were likely due to genetic drift effects and demographic stochasticity. We recommend using mixed seed material from the two large populations for translocations, and before conducting reinforcements, to first implement crossing experiments and reintroductions of mixed and crossed material in ecologically restored sites to understand the long-term effects of combining genotypes from different locations.


Arnica montana Clonality Genetic restoration Microsatellites Plant translocation 



This study was supported by the European Union LIFE + Nature & Biodiversity Program (project no. LIFE11 NAT/BE/001060). We thank the Département de la Nature et des Forêts (Service Public de Wallonie), the authorities of the military camps of Elsenborn and Lagland and Natagora for access to the study sites and for the authorization to collect plant material, Sandrine Godefroid, Sarah Le Pajolec, Marie Hechelski, and Jean-Baptiste Walczak and Mathieu Saint-Val (Conservatoire botanique national du Bassin parisien) for their help in sampling seeds and leaf material and/or providing information on populations, Wim Baert and Alexia Sememaro for lab work, Laurent Grumiau and the unit of Evolutionary Biology and Ecology (Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium) for access to the sequencer platform, Sophie Gallina (Unit of Evo-Eco-Paleo, University of Lille, France) for the STRUCTURE analyses that were carried out using the European Grid Infrastructure with the Biomed virtual organization via DIRAC portal supported by France Grilles and Christine Edwards and three anonymous reviewers for comments on the manuscript.

Supplementary material

10592_2018_1087_MOESM1_ESM.doc (84 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 83 KB)


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Botanic Garden MeiseMeiseBelgium
  2. 2.Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles, Service général de l’Enseignement supérieur et de la Recherche scientifiqueBrusselsBelgium
  3. 3.Ecology and Biodiversity, Department of BiologyVrije Universiteit BrusselBrusselsBelgium

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