Habitat fragmentation causes rapid genetic differentiation and homogenization in natural plant populations – A case study in Leymus chinensis
The effects of habitat fragmentations on the forage grass Leymus thinness (Trin.) Tzvel, which has high genetic diversity in northeast China were investigated. Four natural populations of the same ecotype (Grey-green leaf, GGL), namely, BT, ZL, CL and CC (named after location) were collected from different abiotic growing conditions. The CC population has become isolated in a park inside a city by tall buildings though geologically close to CL. Amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) selected primer combinations were highly efficient in revealing the inter-clonal and inter-populational genetic variation in this species. The genetic diversity indices were higher in BT (H = 0.2305) and ZL (0.2467) populations and the lowest in CC (0.1674) population. Cluster analysis showed that the CC population was becoming isolated from the rest with the least gene flow from BT (1.51) as compared from BT to ZL (2.24). Lowest polymorphism was observed in CC (52.31%) as compared to CL (57.69%), BT (70.00%) and ZL (70.38%); this showed a tendency towards homogenization probably due to increased selfing, and due to reduced gene flow apparently caused by city buildings. These results were supported by multiple statistical analyses including Mantel’s test, PCOORDA and AMOVA. Genetic enrichment and epigenetic variation studies can be included in habitat fragmentation analysis and its implications in inducing homogenization and susceptibility in natural plant populations.