Clonal diversity and spatial genetic structure in the long-lived herb, Prairie trillium


Combining population genetic studies with demographic surveys in long-lived clonal herbs can yield insight into the population dynamics of clonal plant populations. In this study, we assayed clonal diversity and spatial genetic structure in a population of a long-lived understory herb, Trillium recurvatum, that has been the focus of a demographic study spanning 26 years at the Meeman Biological Station in Memphis, Tennessee, USA. Using a set of five newly developed simple sequence repeat markers first reported here, we assessed 1) the extent of clonal diversity within the Meeman site, 2) the degree to which genetic diversity varies with stage class (juvenile, non-flowering, and flowering adults) at this site, 3) whether there is spatial genetic structure at the Meeman site, and 4) how measures of genetic diversity and inbreeding at the Meeman site compare to two additional nearby populations. Along with these analyses, we calculated and compared traditional population genetic metrics with information theory-based diversity indices. Although clonal propagation was present, the focal population displayed moderate levels of clonal diversity comprising 81 genets from the 174 individuals sampled. In the focal site, we also found that genetic diversity was highest in the flowering stage class when compared to the non-flowering and juvenile classes. We report that genets exhibited spatial genetic structure in the focal site exhibiting values for the Sp statistic of 0.00199 for linear distance and 0.0271 for log distance. Measures of unbiased gene diversity and the inbreeding coefficient were comparable across the sampled populations. Our results provide complementary genetic data to previous demographic studies in T. recurvatum, and these findings provide data for future studies aimed at integrating the degree of clonality, genetic variation, and population dynamics in this species. Our findings suggest that T. recurvatum at the focal Meeman site displays higher levels of sexual reproduction than were previously suggested, and spatial genetic structure estimates were comparable to other plant species with mixed and outcrossing mating strategies.

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