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Many steppe species reach their (north)westernmost distribution limit in western Central Europe. This also applies to , a rare steppe plant of calcareous rock/sand vegetation. To explore potential differences in reproductive success and genetic composition of peripheral populations, we analysed the absolute (north)westernmost occurrences in Western Germany and populations at the western margin (Eastern Austria) and the centre (Central Hungary) of the Pannonicum, representing a part of the continuous range. Specifically, we discuss the genetic and reproductive constitution of the (north)westernmost exclave and draw conclusions on the species' biogeographical and conservation history in this region. Therefore, we used two independent molecular marker systems (AFLPs, cpDNA sequences) and a set of performance parameters. Overall, lowest regional genetic diversity was found in Western Germany, which is mainly a result of the specific history of two populations. However, this low genetic diversity was not accompanied by reduced reproductive success. The Eastern Austrian populations showed reduced genetic diversity and predominantly reduced performance, interpreted as a consequence of small population sizes. Central Hungarian populations showed the overall highest genetic diversity and comparatively high performance values. We observed high admixture and haplotype sharing between Austrian and Hungarian populations, indicating gene flow among these regions. In contrast, we interpreted the increased population differentiation within, and the clear distinctiveness of the German exclave as a long-term isolation of these (north)westernmost occurrences. Our results, overall, prove the good constitution of these populations and, together with their particular biogeographical history, highlight their conservation value.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: Biodiversity and conservation
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