Full text in PDF
Picea abies (L.) Karst. and Pityogenes chalcographus constitute a commonly observed host tree–insect association in Eurasia, with the natural distribution of the bark beetle overlapping that of Norway spruce. The southernmost borderline of their distributions occurs in the Elatia forest (Mt. Rodopi, Greece), where these interacting organisms may experience severe conditions due to the effects of climate change. In order to assess the dynamics of this host tree–insect association, the genetic diversity of both organisms was studied. In contrast to previous studies, the assessment of molecular diversity was based on the same mitochondrial gene (Cytochrome Oxidase One) sequence for both host and pest. This analysis revealed a remarkably higher genetic diversity of P. chalcographus compared to that of P. abies, something that renders the insect capable not only of adapting to novel environmental conditions, but even of shifting to other host species. On the contrary, P. abies presented a narrow genetic base, a potential drawback at the southern-most region of the species natural distribution. Synthesizing the preliminary outcome for both organisms, it appears that P. chalcographus exhibits an evolutionary advantage over P. abies, something that should be considered when planning conservation strategies for the relict forest of Elatia.