The Conservation Value of Peripheral Populations and a Relationship Between Quantitative Trait and Molecular Variation

S. Volis, D. Ormanbekova, K. Yermekbayev, M. Song, I. Shulgina

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


The adaptive potential of populations and therefore their ability to cope with rapid environmental changes is a question of paramount fundamental and applied importance. However, what is still not clear is the effect of population position within the species range (i.e. core vs. edge) on population adaptive potential, and whether the adaptive potential can be predicted from extent of neutral molecular variation. In this study, we compared the extent and structure of neutral (SSR) and presumably adaptive quantitative trait genetic variation in populations of Triticum dicoccoides sampled at the species range core and two opposite edges, and related this information to multigenerational performance of plants experimentally introduced beyond the range edge. The plants from the species arid edge performed worse than plants from the more mesic core in extreme desert conditions. The core and edge populations did not differ in extent of SSR variation. In contrast to the neutral genetic variation, there was lower quantitative trait variation in the two edge as compared with the core population for many traits, and no trait in any edge population had higher variation than the core population or either of its habitats. Reduced variation in selectively important traits indicates a lower adaptive potential of the two edge as compared with the core population. Our results imply (1) that extent of variation in quantitative traits can predict plant performance in novel environments while extent of variation in molecular markers can not; and (2) caution in usage of peripheral populations in such conservation actions as relocation and creation of new populations. We also warn against usage of neutral molecular variation as a surrogate for selectively important quantitative variation in conservation decisions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)26-36
Number of pages11
JournalEvolutionary Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Adaptive potential
  • Gene flow
  • Marginal populations
  • Reciprocal introduction
  • Species range limits

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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