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  • 1 Corvinus University of Budapest Faculty of Horticultural Sciences Ménesi út 44 H-1118 Budapest Hungary
  • 2 Hungarian Forest Research Institute Várkerület 30/A H-9600 Sárvár Hungary
  • 3 Istituto di Genetica Vegetale CNR Via Madonna del Piano 50019 Sesto Fiorentino (Firenze) Italy
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We investigated the diversity pattern of nine Swiss stone pine (Pinus cembra L.) populations along the Carpathian range including the High Tatras, by using six chloroplast DNA microsatellites (cpSSR). Our aim was to detect genetically distinct regions by clustering of populations, and to tackle possible historical colonization routes. Our analysis referred to an investigated geographical range with the two most distant populations situated at about 500 air km. We found that the most diverse populations are situated at the two edges of the investigated part, in the Retezat Mts. (South Carpathians) and the High Tatras, and diversity decreases towards the populations of the Eastern Carpathians. Hierarchical clustering and NMDS revealed that the populations of the South Carpathians with the Tatras form a distinct cluster, significantly separated from those of the Eastern Carpathians. Moreover, based on the most variable chloroplast microsatellites, the four populations of the two range edges are not significantly different. Our results, supported also by palynological and late glacial macrofossil evidences, indicate refugial territories within the Retezat Mts. that conserved rich haplotype composition. From this refugial territory Pinus cembra might have colonized the Eastern Carpathians, and this was accompanied by a gradual decrease in population diversity. Populations of the High Tatras might have had the same role in the colonizing events of the Carpathians, as positive correlation was detected among populations lying from each other at a distance of 280 km, the maximum distance between neighbouring populations.

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