Biodiversity in Ontario's Great Lakes region may be greater than we thought

Aug 28, 2013

Branched Bartonia (Bartonia paniculata), a threatened species, is a spindly annual plant that grows to 40 cm tall and has tiny white flowers. Researchers at Trent University compared genetic data from the two geographically distinct populations of this small wetland plant, and found that the Muskoka, Ontario ones are genetically very different from a core population found in New York State, 600 km away. This discovery suggests that the Branched Bartonia in Ontario is genetically unique, and therefore under a much greater threat – which impacts conservation management decisions. The findings suggest that the genetic diversity, and hence biodiversity, in the Great Lakes region of Ontario may be much greater than previously realized. This research was published today in the journal Botany.

Populations of a species are commonly separated by relatively short distances, yet sometimes there is a leap of several hundred kilometres between a species' core set of populations and a subset of populations that are known as disjuncts. In Ontario, Canada, numerous species at risk occur as disjunct populations, most commonly around the Great Lakes region.

"Though many of these populations are considered regionally threatened because they harbour a relatively small number of individuals, they may not be considered globally threatened because individuals in the core set of populations (usually further south) are often abundant," explains Claudia Ciotir, a co-author of the study and researcher in the Department of Environmental and Life Sciences at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario. "This means that the core populations can downgrade the conservation status of the disjunct populations, but this downgrading assumes that the disjunct and core populations are closely related to one another."

"Our findings provide evidence that the accumulated genetic novelty between disjuncts and their central populations is important and we recommend that genetic novelty should be factored into future conservation policies of Canadian disjunct populations. We show that comparative genetic assessments of disjunct and central populations can provide information that is critical to decisions about ."

This divergent evolutionary history may be relevant to a suite of 62 species of disjunct populations residing along the Great Lakes shores. The study "Evolutionary history and conservation value of disjunct Bartonia paniculata subsp. paniculata (Branched Bartonia) populations in Canada" was published today in the journal Botany. DOI: dx.doi.org/10.1139/cjb-2013-0063

Explore further: Study shows the factors influencing which conservation news get shared on social media

More information: nrcresearchpress.com/doi/abs/10.1139/cjb-2013-0063

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Rare primate species needs habitat help to survive

Jul 10, 2013

The population of the critically endangered large primate known as the drill (Mandrillus leucophaeus) has been largely reduced to a few critical habitat areas in Cameroon, according to a recently published study by resear ...

Climate change threatens hotspots of genetic diversity

Aug 01, 2013

(Phys.org) —Past climates shaped the current hotspots of genetic diversity for the grey long-eared bat, one of the UK's rarest mammals, but future climate change threatens these biodiversity hotspots, according ...

Recommended for you

World's wildlife critical to the economies of nations

3 hours ago

Wildlife is critical to the economies of nations. New Zealand's wildlife – whales, dolphins, red deer, thar, albatross, kiwi, tuatara, fish and kauri – attract tourists. And the tourists who come to see ...

Modern methods lead the way toward a rhino rebound

3 hours ago

Cutting-edge technology and techniques have become essential tools in the effort to save rhinos. Micro chips, translocation and consumer campaigns are helping shift the balance against record-setting poaching ...

The water trading strategies of plants

4 hours ago

Plants trade water for carbon – every litre of water that they extract from the soil allows them to take up a few more grams of carbon from the atmosphere to use in growth. A new global study, led by Australian ...

Chinese ivory traders find haven online

6 hours ago

China's booming e-commerce websites have carried thousands of advertisements for illegal wildlife products including ivory, rhino horn and tiger bone, a wildlife trade monitoring network said on Tuesday.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.