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Plant Focus

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A guest post by Matt Candeias, host of the In Defense of Plants podcast and blog

Conservation of Quercus arbutifolia, a Rare Oak, from Southern China’s Montane Cloud Forests

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Min Deng, Xu Jun, Yi-Gang Song, and Xiao-Long Jiang

Published May 2016 International Oaks No. 27: 171–180

Abstract

Quercus arbutifolia Hickel & A. Camus is a rare oak with a restricted subtropical distribution in the montane cloud forests (MCFs) in Southern China and Southern Vietnam. Currently, only six sites are known of this species. The insular nature of MCFs, the rarity of the populations and limited number of individuals makes this species extremely vulnerable to global climate change. In this study, we evaluated the habitat conditions of five populations of Q. arbutifolia in China, and investigated their morphological variation and genetic structure based on four cpDNA sequences. Humidity and temperature are the key factors restricting the distribution of Q. arbutifolia to China’s and Vietnam’s MCFs. Our study revealed the rich diversity of leaf morphological features among the populations. An unexpected high level of genetic diversity was also detected in these populations. The highest haplotype diversity were found in SH and YZ populations. The unique haplotypes of DM populations diversified early, perhaps in relationship to the establishment of the Pearl River drainage system. Considering the combined factors of high habitat disturbance, population size, and the genetic diversity pattern, both in situ and ex situ conservation of these five populations of Q. arbutifolia should be enforced.

Keywords

endangered species, genetic structures, Cyclobalanopsis, subtropical East Asia

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