The natural range of the dwarf birch (Betula nana L.) includes the boreal, subarctic and arctic regions of Europe, Asia and North America, where it is relatively common. In Poland, it is a relict species occurring in fragmented populations. Using the random amplification of polymorphic DNA (RAPD) technique, we investigated the genetic diversity of the four Swedish populations representing a part of the continuous range of dwarf birch. With the knowledge of the level of genetic diversity of a population from a continuous distribution, we can assess the genetic status of polish populations and answer the question if habitat fragmentation and a decrease in population size lead to a loss in genetic diversity. Knowledge of genetic diversity is important for species conservation, especially to predict their ability to respond to environmental pressures. We found that the populations Abisko, Malbo, Gällivare and Storlien, which are located at the edge of the natural range of B. nana and occupy different habitats, are genetically diverse to varying degrees. The northern populations from Abisko and Gällivare showed a lower level of genetic polymorphism than the population from Malbo, the southernmost site of dwarf birch in Sweden. The data presented indicate higher genetic diversity existed within populations, whereas genetic differentiation between populations was lower. The high level of genetic differentiation within B. nana populations that were analysed in the present study may be explained by a limited capacity for dispersal among populations via both pollen and seeds.
We found that the level of genetic diversity in one of the Polish populations of B. nana is comparable to that in areas in Scandinavia where populations are large and continuous. Based on these studies, we conclude that the „Linje” population has sufficient genetic resources.
|Source||Folia Forestalia Polonica, Series A – Forestry|
|Type of article
||Genetic diversity of Betula nana in Sweden and conservation implications for protection of relict Polish populations|
|Publisher||The Committee on Forestry Sciences and Wood Technology of the Polish Academy of Sciences and the Forest Research Institute in Sekocin Stary|