Publication Details

O'Brien, E. K., Denham, A. J. & Ayre, D. J. (2014). Patterns of genotypic diversity suggest a long history of clonality and population isolation in the Australian arid zone shrub Acacia carneorum. Plant Ecology, 215 (1), 55-71.


For plants capable of both sexual and clonal reproduction, the relative frequency of these reproductive modes is influenced by genetic and ecological factors. Acacia carneorum is a threatened shrub from the Australian arid zone that occurs as a set of small, spatially isolated populations. Sexual reproduction appears to be very rare: despite regular flowering, only two populations set seed. It is not known whether this reflects an ancient pattern, or results from rapid land use changes following arrival of Europeans in the region 150 years ago. We assessed genotypic variation throughout the range of A. carneorum using AFLP markers, to elucidate the relative importance of clonal and sexual reproduction in this species’ history. Clonal diversity (CD) within populations ranged from 0 to 0.820 (mean CD = 0.270, SE = 0.094), but the relative abundances of genets were typically highly skewed. On average, the two fruiting populations had higher CD (mean CD = 0.590, SE = 0.265) than non-fruiting populations (mean CD = 0.179, SE = 0.077) (t = 2.315, p = 0.049), but most populations contained multiple genets. All genets were population-specific, and there was substantial divergence among populations (Φ ST = 0.690), implying a long history of isolation. We conclude that clonality has predominated in A. carneorum populations, with occasional sexual recruitment, and that current failure of most populations to set seed likely reflects both a long history of asexual reproduction and effects of habitat disturbance. Conservation of this species may benefit from translocations to increase genotypic diversity within populations.



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