Genetic diversity and structure of western white pine (Pinus monticola) in North America: a baseline study for conservation, restoration, and addressing impacts of climate change.
Western white pine (Pinus monticola) is an economically and ecologically important species in western North America that has declined in prominence over the past several decades, mainly due to the introduction of Cronartium ribicola (cause of white pine blister rust) and reduced opportunities for regeneration. Amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) markers were used to assess the genetic diversity and structure among populations at 15 sites (e.g., provenances) across the native range of western white pine. The level of genetic diversity was different among 15 populations tested using 66 polymorphic AFLP loci. Nei's gene diversity (HE) at the population level ranged from 0.187 to 0.316. Genetic differentiation (GST) indicated that 20.1% of detected genetic variation was explained by differences among populations. In general, populations below 45°N latitude exhibited a higher level of genetic diversity than higher latitude populations. Genetic distance analysis revealed two major clades between northern and southern populations, but other well-supported relationships are also apparent within each of the two clades. The complex relationships among populations are likely derived from multiple factors including migration, adaptation, and multiple glacial refugia, especially in higher latitudes. Genetic diversity and structure revealed by this study will aid recognition and selection of western white pine populations for species management and conservation programs, especially in consideration of current and future climate changes.