Genetics of reintroduced populations of the narrowly endemic thistle, cirsium pitcheri (asteraceae)1

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20 Scopus citations


The aim of any reintroduction is to provide sufficient genetic variability to buffer against changing selection pressures and ensure long-term survival. To date, few empirical studies have compared levels of genetic diversity in reintroduced and native plant populations. Using microsatellite markers, we measured the genetic diversity within reintroduced and native populations of the threatened Cirsium pitcher (Eaton) Torrey and Gray. We found that the use of local mixed source was successful in establishing populations with significantly higher genetic diversity (P < 0.005) than the native populations (allelic richness is 3.39 in reintroduced and 1.84 in native populations). However, the reintroduced populations had significantly higher inbreeding coefficients (P < 0.002) (FIS is 0.405 and 0.213 in reintroduced and in native populations, respectively), despite having multiple genetic founders, population sizes equivalent to native populations and a positive growth rate. These results may be due to inbreeding or the Wahlund effect, driven by genetic substructuring. This suggests that the small population size of these reintroduced populations may lead to genetic issues in the future, given the low number of flowering individuals each year. This highlights the importance of considering not only the number of source individuals but the effective population size of the reintroduction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)301-308
Number of pages8
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2013


  • Cirsium pitcheri
  • Gene flow
  • Microsatellite
  • Narrow endemic
  • Plant reintroduction
  • Population genetic structure
  • Rare species

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Plant Science


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