Genetic diversity and connectivity in fragmented populations of Rhinanthus minor in two regions with contrasting land-use

Elizabeth R. Sullivan*, Carl Barker, Ian Powell, Paul A. Ashton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
112 Downloads (Pure)


Knowledge of genetic diversity and connectivity within and between populations of specialist meadow plants is crucial to developing effective conservation strategies at the landscape-scale. This study investigated levels of genetic diversity within, and gene flow between populations of a key annual species, Rhinanthus minor in protected meadows and landscape matrix sites in two contrasting regions. Possible barriers to gene flow were also analysed. Leaf material from 714 individuals in an extensively managed upland region and an intensively managed lowland region of the UK was genotyped using microsatellite markers. Genetic diversity was similar in the two regions (He = 0.48 and 0.44). FST values indicated population differentiation in both regions but the estimate was higher in the lowland (FST = 0.28) than in the upland region (FST = 0.19); evidence of global structure was revealed in a spatial principal components analysis but a maximum likelihood population effects model did not identify significant predictors of population differentiation after testing the effects of Euclidean geographic distance, land cover and elevation. Conservation strategies should aim to maintain large populations in meadows to enhance genetic diversity. At the same time the focus should be on existing and additional species-rich grassland fragments, particularly in areas of intensive land-use, if genetic connectivity is to be retained.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3159-3181
Number of pages23
JournalBiodiversity and Conservation
Issue number12
Early online date24 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2019


  • Gene flow
  • Grassland conservation
  • Hay meadows
  • Landscape-scale conservation
  • sPCA


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