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An investigation into the relationship between ecogeographic distribution and genetic diversity - GC0121

The objective of this research is to investigate the relationship between ecogeographic distribution and genetic diversity for some economically important plant genetic resource species native to the UK. As a signatory of the Convention on Biological Diversity, the UK has an obligation to conserve its native plant genetic resources for future generations. These resources are currently suffering extensive genetic erosion, due to habitat destruction and fragmentation, changes in countryside management, climatic change, as well as genetic pollution from highly bred cultigens. There is currently no systematic attempt being made to conserve the genetic diversity of the UK’s plants, even for those species of socio-economic importance to the UK economy. Maxted et al. (12) proposed a methodology for genetic conservation that could be applied to these species, which involved the use of ecogeographic data to target diverse plant populations for ex situ conservation. However, the basic assumption underlying this methodology is that ecogeographic diversity between sites is directly correlated to patterns of genetic diversity between the populations found at those sites. The research undertaken will therefore test this assumption and so assist in providing a sound foundation for future ex situ genetic conservation of the socio-economic plant species of the UK.
To test the hypothesis that ecogeographic diversity between sites is directly correlated to patterns of genetic diversity between populations found at those sites for a diverse group of socio-economic plant species native to the UK.
The specific technical objectives are:
1. Ecogeographic Survey Completion end of year 1
For each selected priority taxon the background ecogeographic data will be collated from the literature using the established methodology (11). The results of the ecogeographic survey will be used to generate an ecogeographic statement for each taxon.
2. Field Population Sampling Completion end of year 2
Samples of target populations from diverse ecogeographic locations selected using the collated ecogeographic data will be taken either from existing ex situ conserved material or from novel sampling of in situ UK populations following the guidelines (7). Additional ecogeographic data will be collected from each site, including vegetation composition and management history, and soil samples will be collected for analysis. These data will be used for ecogeographic analysis of genetic diversity (Objective 4).
3. Genetic Diversity Studies Completion mid year 3
Patterns of genetic diversity will be investigated using AFLPs. This is the most appropriate and cost-effective molecular technology for the purpose of the project, since each AFLP primer pair can generate information on several hundred polymorphic regions scattered throughout the genome, including both neutral and non-neutral genes. The technology is already in routine use by the applicant, so that there is no requirement for prior development work. Between three and ten AFLP primer pairs will be used to assess each population.
4. Analysis of ecogeographic and genetic data Completion end of year 3
Indices of genetic diversity and analyses of molecular variation and population differentiation will be used to assess the levels of actual genetic diversity in the selected target species populations. Corresponding indices of ecological diversity will be calculated between collecting sites, using the ecogeographic passport data collected in objective 2. Multivariate statistical analyses will then be used to quantify the relationship between genetic diversity among populations and ecogeographic diversity among the sites from which they were obtained.
Project Documents
• Final Report : An investigation into the relationship between ecogeographic distribution and genetic diversity   (37k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2000

To: 2003

Cost: £181,095
Contractor / Funded Organisations
University - Birmingham
Plant Genetic Resources              
Plants and Animals