Colonization of vegetation-rich moraines and inference of multiple sources of colonization in the High Arctic for Salix arctica
genetic diversity, loss of genetic diversity, Phylogeography, polar oasis, Refugia
Vegetation-rich patches in the High Arctic may serve as a significant source for vegetation reconstruction in the climate changes. Diversity and colonization, however, of such potential source populations in the High Arctic has rarely been studied. We examined chloroplast sequence variation in Salix arctica, a key species in the Canadian High Arctic, from four adjacent glacial moraines of differing ages on Ellesmere Island, Canada, as well as two other populations located at the center and southern end of the species’ range. The estimated ages of the moraines varied from 35,000 to 250 years old. The older moraine populations showed higher within-population genetic variation compared with the other moraine populations, which is generally attributed to differences in establishment age associated with plant densities among moraines. The moraines with smaller plant density had lower genetic diversity and had no private haplotypes, indicating the local population size and genetic diversity may not be recovered within a few thousand years. This suggests seed dispersal at a local scale may be limited even in species with high velocity of seed dispersal, and that High Arctic vegetation-rich patches may serve as significant source populations for sustaining local genetic diversity. In addition, the three regions we observed comprised an evolutionarily distinct lineage and significant population differentiation. This implies multiple sources for the colonization during the most recent deglaciation, resulting in the current wide distribution. Local as well as range-wide processes of colonization would be essential to understand vegetation responses in High Arctic to the environmental changes.