Geropogon hybridus (L.) Sch.Bip. (Asteraceae) exhibits micro-geographic genetic divergence at ecological range limits along a steep precipitation gradient
In landscapes which are predominately characterised by agriculture, natural ecosystems are often reduced to a mosaic of scattered patches of natural vegetation. Species with formerly connected distribution ranges now have restricted gene flow among populations. This has isolating effects upon population structure, because species are often confined by their limited dispersal capabilities. In this study, we test the effects of habitat fragmentation, precipitation, and isolation of populations on the genetic structure (AFLP) and fitness of the Asteraceae Catananche lutea. Our study area is an agro-dominated ecosystem in the desert–Mediterranean transition zone of the Southern Judea Lowlands in Israel. Our analysis revealed an intermediate level of intra-population genetic diversity across the study site with reduced genetic diversity on smaller scale. Although the size of the whole study area was relatively small (20 × 45 km), we found isolation by distance to be effective. We detected a high level of genetic differentiation among populations but genetic structure did not reflect spatial patterns. Population genetic diversity was correlated neither with position along the precipitation gradient nor with different seed types or other plant fitness variables in C. lutea.