Journal article Open Access

Contrasting Genetic Footprints among Saharan Olive Populations: Potential Causes and Conservation Implications

Besnard, Guillaume; Gorrilliot, Océane; Raimondeau, Pauline; Génot, Benoit; El Bakkali, Ahmed; Anthelme, Fabien; Baali-Cherif, Djamel

The Laperrine’s olive is endemic to the Saharan Mountains. Adapted to arid environments,
it may constitute a valuable genetic resource to improve water-stress tolerance in the cultivated olive.
However, limited natural regeneration coupled with human pressures make it locally endangered
in Central Sahara. Understanding past population dynamics is thus crucial to define management
strategies. Nucleotide sequence diversity was first investigated on five nuclear genes and compared
to the Mediterranean and African olives. These data confirm that the Laperrine’s olive has a strong
affinity with the Mediterranean olive, but it shows lower nucleotide diversity than other continental
taxa. To investigate gene flows mediated by seeds and pollen, polymorphisms from nuclear and
plastid microsatellites from 383 individuals from four Saharan massifs were analyzed. A higher
genetic diversity in Ahaggar (Hoggar, Algeria) suggests that this population has maintained over the
long term a larger number of individuals than other massifs. High-to-moderate genetic differentiation
between massifs confirms the role of desert barriers in limiting gene flow. Yet contrasting patterns of
isolation by distance were observed within massifs, and also between plastid and nuclear markers,
stressing the role of local factors (e.g., habitat fragmentation, historical range shift) in seed and pollen
dispersal. Implications of these results in the management of the Laperrine’s olive genetic resources
are discussed.

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