Image_1_Geography and Environment Shape Landscape Genetics of Mediterranean Alpine Species Silene ciliata Poiret. (Caryophyllaceae).TIF
The study of the drivers that shape spatial genetic structure across heterogeneous landscapes is one of the main approaches used to understand population dynamics and responses in changing environments. While the Isolation-by-Distance model (IBD) assumes that genetic differentiation increases among populations with geographical distance, the Isolation-by-Resistance model (IBR) also considers geographical barriers and other landscape features that impede gene flow. On the other hand, the Isolation-by-Environment model (IBE) explains genetic differentiation through environmental differences between populations. Although spatial genetic studies have increased significantly in recent years, plants from alpine ecosystems are highly underrepresented, even though they are great suitable systems to disentangle the role of the different factors that structure genetic variation across environmental gradients. Here, we studied the spatial genetic structure of the Mediterranean alpine specialist Silene ciliata across its southernmost distribution limit. We sampled three populations across an altitudinal gradient from 1850 to 2400 m, and we replicated this sample over three mountain ranges aligned across an E-W axis in the central part of the Iberian Peninsula. We genotyped 20 individuals per population based on eight microsatellite markers and used different landscape genetic tools to infer the role of topographic and environmental factors in shaping observed patterns along the altitudinal gradient. We found a significant genetic structure among the studied Silene ciliata populations which was related to the orography and E-W configuration of the mountain ranges. IBD pattern arose as the main factor shaping population genetic differentiation. Geographical barriers between mountain ranges also affected the spatial genetic structure (IBR pattern). Although environmental variables had a significant effect on population genetic diversity parameters, no IBE pattern was found on genetic structure. Our study reveals that IBD was the driver that best explained the genetic structure, whereas environmental factors also played a role in determining genetic diversity values of this dominant plant of Mediterranean alpine environments.