Genetic structure of local populations and cultivars of meadow Fescue from the Nordic and Baltic regions
The genetic diversity within and among 81 local populations from Norway and Lithuania and 26 cultivars of meadow fescue (Festuca pratensis Huds.) from Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia was investigated using amplified fragment length polymorphism markers. Genetic diversity was high, with nearly 70% of the molecular variation within populations. Principal coordinates (PCO) analyses indicate that local populations from Norway and Lithuania consist of both older natural populations and naturalized populations established recently by migration from sown meadows. This is based on the fact that naturalized populations cluster with cultivars from the respective countries. The PCO analysis separates the natural local populations from Norway and Lithuania. They belong to different gene pools and reflect dispersal from different glacial refugia after the last glaciation. The Nordic and Baltic cultivars are quite similar (6.25% of variation between groups), and the Baltic cultivars are highly homogenous, with 91% of variation within the cultivars, indicating narrow breeding populations of this species in the Nordic–Baltic region. All cultivars are most closely related to local populations from the Baltic. The results can be used to improve management and utilization of gene bank resources of meadow fescue. Conservation of gene bank accessions should focus on those local populations least influenced by gene flow from cultivated meadow fescue since they probably represent pure natural populations.