Conservation Genetics

, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp 119–128 | Cite as

Conservation of long-lived perennial forest herbs in an urban context: Primula elatior as study case

  • Fabienne Van Rossum
Research Article


Urban forests are generally fragmented in small isolated remnants, embedded in an inhospitable human-used matrix, and incur strong anthropogenic pressures (recreational activities, artificialization, pollution and eutrophication). These lead to particularly high constraints even for common forest herbs, whose genetic response may depend on life-history traits and population demographic status. This study investigated genetic variation and structure for 20 allozyme loci in 14 populations of Primula elatior, a self-incompatible long-lived perennial herb, occurring in forest fragments of Brussels urban zone (Belgium), in relation to population size and young plants recruitment rate. Urban populations of P. elatior were not genetically depauperate, but the small populations showed reduced allelic richness. Small populations showing high recruitment rates—and therefore potential rejuvenation—revealed lower genetic diversity (H o and H e) than those with low or no recruitment. No such pattern was observed for the large populations. There was a significant genetic differentiation among populations within forest fragments (F SC = 0.052, P < 0.001), but not between fragments (F CT = 0.002, P > 0.10). These findings suggest restricted gene flow among populations within fragments and local processes (genetic drift, inbreeding) affecting small populations, strengthened when there is recruitment. Urban forest populations of long-lived perennial herbs can be of conservation value. However, restoration of small populations by increasing population size through regeneration by seedling recruitment may lead to negative genetic consequences. Additional management, aiming to restore gene flow among populations, may need to be applied to compensate the loss of genetic diversity and to reduce inbreeding.


Allozymes Genetic erosion Urban habitat fragmentation Population size Recruitment rate 



The author thanks S. Godefroid for constructive discussion and for providing map and information on population locations and on forest history and L. Triest, A. Van Geert and an anonymous referee for comments on the manuscript. This research was financially supported by the Prospective Research for Brussels Programme of the Government of the Brussels Capital Region.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Plant Biology and Nature ManagementVrije Universiteit BrusselBrusselsBelgium
  2. 2.Department of Vascular PlantsNational Botanic Garden of BelgiumMeiseBelgium

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