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Studies reveal gene flow model of endangered plant
Update time: 2007-04-19
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     Shuhua shuibaizhi (Myricaria laxiflora), an endemic riparian plant in the Three Gorges Valley of the Yangtze River, is the only species in the genus Myricaria that grows in low-altitude regions of the Yangtze River. The other species of the genus are distributed in Tibet and neighboring regions. Over the past decades, scientists are puzzled at why Myricaria laxiflora exists alone along the Yangtze while its cousins are suffering from the arid and frigid climate. And the researches are anxious to know more about the plant because its natural habitat has been plunged under water owing to the construction of the Three Gorges Dam.

    Recently, a team led by Prof. HUANG Hongwen, director of the CAS Wuhan Botanical Garden (WBG) has made novel progress in the genetic studies of the endangered species by using molecular markers. Their studies reveal high interpopulation genetic differentiation and unidirectional linear migration pattern of the plant. The work was reported at the February 2006 issue of American Journal of Botany.

    The migration pattern in M. laxiflora is best explained by a classical metapopulation model, but with a unique unidirectional geneflow underlined by hydrochoric force that drove dispersal of seeds and propagules from upstream toward downstream populations, says LIU Yifei, lead author of the article and a doctoral candidate at the WBG.

    The studies also evaluated the previous efforts in preserving genomic integrity in ex situ conservation. Over the past three years, botanists have made efforts to find new habitats for the plant. Experts say the results provide valuable information to formulate conservation guidelines for successfully reintroducing M. laxiflora from the conversation stations to the wild.

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