Current issue: 54(2)
Vaccinium myrtillus L., Vaccinium uliginosum L. and Vaccinium vitis-idaea L. are perennial, cold-adapted clonal shrubs distributed throughout Europe, northern Asia and North America. Due to their usage in food (berries) and pharmaceutical industry (berries and leaves), their natural populations are exposed to anthropogenic and other impacts that affect their genetic make-up. We analyzed 14 fragmentary distributed and small-sized peripheral populations of these species from the Balkans, which represents the southeastern-European marginal area of their wide European distributions, using RAPD molecular markers. The contemporary genetic patterns in all three species within the Balkans were generally similar, and in comparison to previous reports on populations of these species found in northward Europe, where they have a more continuous distribution, the levels of genetic diversity were more or less halved, genetic differentiation was several times higher, gene flow exceptionally low, and the expected prevalence of clonal individuals was lacking. The population dynamics of all three species within the Balkans was complex and distinct, and was characterized by a past admixture of individuals from discrete populations of the same species and interspecific hybridisation not only between V. myrtillus and V. vitis-idaea but also between V. uliginosum and V. vitis-idaea, the latter not being reported to date. Conservation measures suitable for preservation of presumably genetically distinct portions of the Balkans’ gene pools of studied species have been suggested, while the utility of interspecific hybrids in breeding programs and/ or in food/pharmaceutical industry is yet to be assessed.
Pinus nigra J.F. Arnold, European black pine, is a typical component of Mediterranean and sub-Mediterranean coniferous forests with highly fragmentary distribution. Western Mediterranean populations of this species have been studied genetically to date, while eastern populations from the central Balkans, which are larger and more abundant, are still genetically understudied. We analyzed seven populations of P. nigra representing all infraspecific taxa recognized within the central Balkans (subspecies nigra with varieties nigra and gocensis Đorđević; and subspecies pallasiana (Lamb.) Holmboe with varieties pallasiana and banatica (Endl.) Georgescu et Ionescu), with three chloroplast microsatellites (cpDNA SSRs) and one mitochondrial (mtDNA) locus. Although our molecular data failed to support circumscription of studied infraspecific taxa, we found that genetic patterns at both genomes are in accordance with those found previously in westward populations of this species, that is – exceptionally high levels of genetic diversity (HT = 0.949) and low genetic differentiation (GST = 0.024) at the cpDNA level, and moderate levels of genetic diversity (HT = 0.357) and genetic differentiation (GST = 0.358) at the mtDNA level. Based on genealogical relations of mtDNA types currently present in Balkans’ and Iberian/African populations, we inferred that the ancestral gene pool of P. nigra already harbored polymorphism at position 328 prior to the divergence to two lineages currently present in westward and eastward parts of the species range distribution. Subsequent occurrence of three mutations, which distinguish these two lineages, suggests their long-term isolation.