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Data from: Tracking population genetic signatures of local extinction with herbarium specimens

Cite this dataset

Rosche, Christoph et al. (2022). Data from: Tracking population genetic signatures of local extinction with herbarium specimens [Dataset]. Dryad.


Background and Aims  Habitat degradation and landscape fragmentation dramatically lower population sizes of rare plant species. Decreasing population sizes may, in turn, negatively affect genetic diversity and reproductive fitness which can ultimately lead to local extinction of populations. Although such extinction vortex dynamics have been postulated in theory and modelling for decades, empirical evidence from local extinctions of plant populations is scarce. In particular, comparisons between current vs. historical genetic diversity and differentiation are lacking despite their potential to guide conservation management.

Methods  We studied the population genetic signatures of the local extinction of Biscutella laevigata subsp. gracilis populations in Central Germany. We used microsatellites to genotype individuals from 15 current populations, one ex-situ population, and 81 herbarium samples from five extant and 22 extinct populations. In the current populations, we recorded population size and fitness proxies, collected seeds for a germination trial and conducted a vegetation survey. The latter served as surrogate for habitat conditions to study how habitat dissimilarity affects functional connectivity among the current populations.

Key Results  Bayesian clustering revealed similar gene pool distribution in current and historical samples but also indicated that a distinct genetic cluster was significantly associated with extinction probability. Gene flow was affected by both spatial distance and floristic composition of population sites, highlighting the potential of floristic composition as powerful predictor of functional connectivity which may promote decision making for reintroduction measures. For an extinct population, we found a negative relationship between sampling year and heterozygosity. Inbreeding negatively affected germination.

Conclusions  Our study illustrates the usefulness of historical DNA to study extinction vortices in threatened species. Our novel combination of classical population genetics together with data from herbarium specimens, an ex-situ population and a germination trial underscores the need for genetic rescue measures to prevent extinction of B. laevigata in Central Germany.


ELER regulation, Award: 1303/2013