Mitochondrial and chloroplast phylogeography of Picea crassifolia Kom. (Pinaceae) in the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau and adjacent highlands

L-H Meng, R Yang, Richard John Abbott, G Miehe, T-H Hu, J-Q Liu

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142 Citations (Scopus)


The disjunct distribution of forests in the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau (QTP) and adjacent Helan Shan and Daqing Shan highlands provides an excellent model to examine vegetation shifts, glacial refugia and gene flow of key species in this complex landscape region in response to past climatic oscillations and human disturbance. In this study, we examined maternally inherited mitochondrial DNA (nad1 intron b/c and nad5 intron 1) and paternally inherited chloroplast DNA (trnC-trnD) sequence variation within a dominant forest species, Picea crassifolia Kom. We recovered nine mitotypes and two chlorotypes in a survey of 442 individuals from 32 populations sampled throughout the species' range. Significant mitochondrial DNA population subdivision was detected (G(ST) = 0.512; N-ST = 0.679), suggesting low levels of recurrent gene flow through seeds among populations and significant phylogeographical structure (N-ST > GST, P < 0.05). Plateau haplotypes differed in sequence from those in the adjacent highlands, suggesting a long period of allopatric fragmentation between the species in the two regions and the presence of independent refugia in each region during Quaternary glaciations. On the QTP platform, all but one of the disjunct populations surveyed were fixed for the same mitotype, while most populations at the plateau edge contained more than one haplotype with the mitotype that was fixed in plateau platform populations always present at high frequency. This distribution pattern suggests that present-day disjunct populations on the QTP platform experienced a common recolonization history. The same phylogeographical pattern, however, was not detected for paternally inherited chloroplast DNA haplotypes. Two chlorotypes were distributed throughout the range of the species with little geographical population differentiation (G(ST) = N-ST = 0.093). This provides evidence for highly efficient pollen-mediated gene flow among isolated forest patches, both within and between the QTP and adjacent highland populations. A lack of isolation to pollen-mediated gene flow between forests on the QTP and adjacent highlands is surprising given that the Tengger Desert has been a geographical barrier between these two regions for approximately the last 1.8 million years.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4128-4137
Number of pages10
JournalMolecular Ecology
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2007


  • cpDNA
  • gene flow
  • mtDNA
  • Picea crassifolia
  • postglacial recolonization
  • Tibetan Plateau
  • DNA


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