Conservation Genetics

, 12:1323 | Cite as

Genetic variation and clonal structure of the rare, riparian shrub Spiraea virginiana (Rosaceae)

  • Jessica R. Brzyski
  • Theresa M. Culley
Research Article


Genetic diversity is often considered important for species that inhabit highly disturbed environments to allow for adaptation. Many variables affect levels of genetic variation; however, the two most influential variables are population size and type of reproduction. When analyzed separately, both small population size and asexual reproduction can lead to reductions in genetic variation, although the exact nature of which can be contrasting. Genetic variables such as allelic richness, heterozygosity, inbreeding coefficient, and population differentiation have opposite predictions depending upon the trait (rarity or clonality) examined. The goal of this study was to quantify genetic variation and population differentiation in a species that resides in a highly stochastic environment and is both rare and highly clonal, Spiraea virginiana, and to determine if one trait is more influential genetically than the other. From populations sampled throughout the natural range of S. virginiana, we used microsatellite loci to estimate overall genetic variation. We also calculated clonal structure within populations, which included genotypic richness, evenness, and diversity. Gene flow was investigated by quantifying the relationship between genetic and geographic distances, and population differentiation (θ) among populations. Observed heterozygosity, genotypic richness, and inbreeding coefficients were found to be representative of high clonal reproduction (averaging 0.505, 0.1, and –0.356, respectively) and the number of alleles within populations was low (range = 2.0–3.6), being more indicative of rarity. Population differentiation (θ) among populations was high (average = 0.302) and there was no relationship between genetic and geographic distances. By examining a species that exhibits two traits that both can lead to reduced genetic variation, we may find an enhanced urgency for conservation. Accurate demographic counts of clonal species are rarely, if ever, possible and genetic exploration for every species is not feasible. Therefore, the conclusions in this study can be potentially extrapolated to other riparian, clonal shrubs that share similar biology as S. virginiana.


Asexual Conservation Disturbance Microsatellite Multilocus genotypes 



The authors thank S. Matter, E. Maurer, S. Rogstad, S. Selbo, D. Wetzel, and two anonymous reviewers for editorial comments. Thanks to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, Ohio Department of Natural Resources, and Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation for collection permits. We also thank A. Bishop, M. Kerr, T. Littlefield, M. McAllister, J. Rock, and D. White for field assistance. Funding was provided by the Catherine H. Beatty Fellowship from the Garden Club of America and the University Research Council Fellowship and Wendel, Weiman, Benedict Award from the University of Cincinnati.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of CincinnatiCincinnatiUSA

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