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    The abundance of butternut (Juglans cinerea L.) trees has severely declined rangewide over the past 50 years. An important factor in the decline is butternut canker, a disease caused by the fungus Ophiognomonia clavigigentijuglandacearum, which has left the remaining butternuts isolated and sparsely distributed. To manage the remaining populations effectively, information regarding how butternut's population genetic structure is affected by environmental and historical factors is needed. In this study, we assessed genetic structure and diversity of 161 butternut trees from 19 adjacent watersheds in the southern portion of butternut's range using 12 microsatellite markers.We assessed the genetic diversity and genetic differentiation among trees grouped at various spatial scales. Our goal was to use historical abundance and land use data for these watersheds, which are now all a part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP), to understand the ecological and evolutionary forces that challenge the conservation and management of butternut. In general, butternuts within the 19 neighboring watersheds were all part of one continuous population, with gene flow throughout. Significant genetic differentiation was detected between some groups of trees, but the differentiation was quite small and may not represent an ecologically significant distinction. The mean heterozygosity in all watersheds remained high, despite extensive mortality. Overall, genetic diversity and rare alleles were evenly distributed across all watersheds, with some variability in subpopulations containing butternut-Japanese walnut hybrids (Juglans x bixbyi or buarts). These results indicate that management of this species should focus on protection from future hybridization with Japanese walnut, promotion of regeneration, and persistence of all remaining butternut trees, which still retain high levels of genetic diversity.

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    Parks, Amanda; Jenkins, Michael; Ostry, Michael; Zhao, Peng; Woeste, Keith. 2014. Biotic and abiotic factors affecting the genetic structure and diversity of butternut in the southern Appalachian Mountains, USA. Tree Genetics & Genomes. 10(3): 541-554.


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    Butternut canker disease, Juglans cinerea, Forest genetics, Conservation genetics, Hardwood, Hybridization, Ophiognomonia clavigigenti-juglandacearum

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