To study the effects of wildfire on population genetics of a wind pollinated and wind dispersed tree, we have analyzed the genetic structure of a post-fire, naturally regenerating seedling population of Pinus halepensis Miller, on Mt. Carmel, Israel. We tested the existence of spatial genetic structure, which is expected due to the special spatial demographic structure of the post-fire seedling and sapling populations of this species. Explicitly, we asked whether or not seedlings that germinated under large, burned, dead pine trees are also their offspring. The results revealed that the post-fire seedling population is polymorphic, diverse, and reflects the pre-fire random mating system. In contrast to our prediction, we found no division of the post-fire seedling population to distinct sub-populations. Furthermore, as a result of post-fire seed dispersal to longer range than the average pre-fire inter-tree distance, seedlings found under individual burned trees were not necessarily their sole offspring. Although the population as a whole showed a Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium, significant excess of heterozygotes was found within each tallest seedlings group growing under single, large, burned pine trees. Our finding indicates the possible existence of intense natural selection for the most vigorous heterozygous genotypes that are best adapted to the special post-fire regeneration niche, which is the thick ash bed under large, dead, pine trees.
Bibliographical notePublisher Copyright:
© 2016 Gershberg, Ne’eman and Ben-Shlomo.
- Natural selection
- Spatial demographic structure
- Spatial genetic structure
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Plant Science