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Research article2022Peer reviewedOpen access

Context matters: the landscape matrix determines the population genetic structure of temperate forest herbs across Europe

Naaf, Tobias; Feigs, Jannis Till; Huang, Siyu; Brunet, Jorg; Cousins, Sara A. O.; Decocq, Guillaume; De Frenne, Pieter; Diekmann, Martin; Govaert, Sanne; Hedwall, Per-Ola; Lenoir, Jonathan; Liira, Jaan; Meeussen, Camille; Plue, Jan; Vangansbeke, Pieter; Vanneste, Thomas; Verheyen, Kris; Holzhauer, Stephanie I. J.; Kramp, Katja


Context Plant populations in agricultural landscapes are mostly fragmented and their functional connectivity often depends on seed and pollen dispersal by animals. However, little is known about how the interactions of seed and pollen dispersers with the agricultural matrix translate into gene flow among plant populations. Objectives We aimed to identify effects of the landscape structure on the genetic diversity within, and the genetic differentiation among, spatially isolated populations of three temperate forest herbs. We asked, whether different arable crops have different effects, and whether the orientation of linear landscape elements relative to the gene dispersal direction matters. Methods We analysed the species' population genetic structures in seven agricultural landscapes across temperate Europe using microsatellite markers. These were modelled as a function of landscape composition and configuration, which we quantified in buffer zones around, and in rectangular landscape strips between, plant populations. Results Landscape effects were diverse and often contrasting between species, reflecting their association with different pollen- or seed dispersal vectors. Differentiating crop types rather than lumping them together yielded higher proportions of explained variation. Some linear landscape elements had both a channelling and hampering effect on gene flow, depending on their orientation. Conclusions Landscape structure is a more important determinant of the species' population genetic structure than habitat loss and fragmentation per se. Landscape planning with the aim to enhance the functional connectivity among spatially isolated plant populations should consider that even species of the same ecological guild might show distinct responses to the landscape structure.


Arable crops; Dispersal vectors; Functional connectivity; Genetic differentiation; Genetic diversity; Linear landscape elements

Published in

Landscape Ecology
2022, Volume: 37, number: 5, pages: 1365-1384
Publisher: SPRINGER