Demographic history and identification of threats revealed by population genomic analysis provide insights into conservation for an endangered maple

Yongpeng Ma, Detuan Liu, Hafiz Muhammad Wariss, Rengang Zhang, Lidan Tao, Richard I. Milne, Weibang Sun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Recent advancements in whole genome sequencing techniques capable of covering nearly all the nucleotide variations of a genome, would make it possible to set up a conservation framework for threatened plants at the genomic level. Here we applied a whole genome resequencing approach to obtain genome-wide data from 105 individuals sampled from the ten currently known extant populations of Acer yangbiense, an endangered species with fragmented habitats and restricted distribution in Yunnan, China. To inform meaningful conservation action, we investigated what factors might have contributed to the formation of its extremely small population sizes and what threats it currently suffers at a genomic level. Our results revealed that A. yangbiense has low genetic diversity and is comprised of different numbers of genetic groups based on neutral (7) and selected loci (13), with frequent gene flow between populations. Repeated bottleneck events, particularly the most recent one occurring within ~ 10,000 years before present, which decreased its effective population size (Ne) < 200, and severe habitat fragmentation resulting from anthropogenic activities as well as a biased gender ratio of mature individuals in its natural habitat, might have together contributed to the currently fragmented and endangered status of A. yangbiense. The species has suffered from inbreeding and deleterious mutation load, both of which varied among populations but had similar patterns, i.e., populations with higher FROH always carried a larger number of deleterious mutations in the homozygous state than in populations with lower FROH. In addition, based on our genetic differentiation results, and the distribution patterns of homozygous deleterious mutations in individuals, we recommend certain conservation actions regarding the genetic rescue of A. yangbiense. Overall, our study provides meaningful insights into the conservation genetics and a framework for the further conservation for the endangered A. yangbiense.
Original languageEnglish
JournalMolecular Ecology
Early online date26 Nov 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 26 Nov 2021

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Acer yangbiense
  • deleterious mutation
  • demographic history
  • framework on conservation genomics
  • resequencing
  • run of homozygosity


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