Divergence within and among 3 Varieties of the Endemic Tree, ‘Ōhi’a Lehua (Metrosideros polymorpha) on the Eastern Slope of Hawai’i Island

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Examination of neutral genetic structure within young, hypervariable tree species over heterogeneous landscapes can yield insight into the causes of divergence within trees. Three varieties of the Hawaiian-forest-dominant, Metrosideros polymorpha, occur across the main islands and partition 2 striking environmental gradients on young Hawai’i Island. In an examination of 6 nuclear microsatellite loci across 10 populations on east Hawai’i, we found differentiation among varieties (mean FST = 0.065; max = 0.081) that exceeded that observed among populations of some continental tree species over much broader spatial scales. High-elevation var. polymorpha exhibited the strongest average differentiation (FST = 0.071). Weaker differentiation between the early- and late-successional varieties was consistent with previous records of high hybridization between these varieties coupled with differential selection favoring var. incana in early-successional or dry environments, and var. glaberrima in late-successional environments. A comparison of within-variety FST values suggests that active volcanoes shape the genetic structure of early- and late-successional varieties differently. Examination of genetic structure of these same varieties on older islands is required to assess the degree to which the differentiation observed on Hawai’i Island is attributable to multiple colonizations of this young island by partially diverged forms versus divergence in situ.

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