Population genetic structure and the conservation of isolated populations of Acacia raddiana in the Negev Desert
There is much concern over the high mortality of many populations of Acacia raddiana, a keystone tree species in the Negev desert of Israel. We used random amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD) to assess patterns of genetic variation within and among 12 populations of A. raddiana from the Arava (Syrian-African Rift) valley and western Negev. A high level of genetic polymorphism was recorded within populations. An analysis of molecular variance (AMOVA) showed that about 59.4% of total genetic variance occurred among populations, which is considerably greater population differentiation than that recorded for other outbreeding species. Cluster and principal coordinates analyses and AMOVA indicate that the western Negev and Arava valley populations are highly differentiated. We suggest that there may have been two invasions of A. raddiana into Israel: one across the northern Sinai/Gaza Strip area into the western Negev, with some plants reaching the Dead Sea and a second invasion across the southern part of the Sinai peninsula, or even from Saudi Arabia, up to the Arava valley. From the conservation point of view, each population should be conserved separately because they are genetically highly differentiated and loss of any one population would lead to a dramatic loss of genetic variation. The mixing of genetically distinct populations may give rise to outbreeding depression (particularly because of GXE interactions). An obvious first step to the maintenance of this species' genetic diversity is the separate management of the western Negev and Arava valley populations because of their different evolutionary histories. © 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.