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New Phytol. 2006;171(1):199-221.

A new scenario for the quaternary history of European beech populations: palaeobotanical evidence and genetic consequences.

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Dipartimento di Biologia Vegetale, Università La Sapienza, P. le Aldo Moro 5, 00185 Rome, Italy.


Here, palaeobotanical and genetic data for common beech (Fagus sylvatica) in Europe are used to evaluate the genetic consequences of long-term survival in refuge areas and postglacial spread. Four large datasets are presented, including over 400 fossil-pollen sites, 80 plant-macrofossil sites, and 450 and 600 modern beech populations for chloroplast and nuclear markers, respectively. The largely complementary palaeobotanical and genetic data indicate that: (i) beech survived the last glacial period in multiple refuge areas; (ii) the central European refugia were separated from the Mediterranean refugia; (iii) the Mediterranean refuges did not contribute to the colonization of central and northern Europe; (iv) some populations expanded considerably during the postglacial period, while others experienced only a limited expansion; (v) the mountain chains were not geographical barriers for beech but rather facilitated its diffusion; and (vi) the modern genetic diversity was shaped over multiple glacial-interglacial cycles. This scenario differs from many recent treatments of tree phylogeography in Europe that largely focus on the last ice age and the postglacial period to interpret genetic structure and argue that the southern peninsulas (Iberian, Italian and Balkan) were the main source areas for trees in central and northern Europe.

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