Mapping Genetic Diversity of Cherimoya (Annona cherimola Mill.): Application of Spatial Analysis for Conservation and Use of Plant Genetic Resources
There is a growing call for inventories that evaluate geographic patterns in diversity of plant genetic resources maintained on farm and in species’ natural populations in order to enhance their use and conservation. Such evaluations are relevant for useful tropical and subtropical tree species, as many of these species are still undomesticated, or in incipient stages of domestication and local populations can offer yet-unknown traits of high value to further domestication. For many outcrossing species, such as most trees, inbreeding depression can be an issue, and genetic diversity is important to sustain local production. Diversity is also crucial for species to adapt to environmental changes. This paper explores the possibilities of incorporating molecular marker data into Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to allow visualization and better understanding of spatial patterns of genetic diversity as a key input to optimize conservation and use of plant genetic resources, based on a case study of cherimoya (Annona cherimola Mill.), a Neotropical fruit tree species. We present spatial analyses to (1) improve the understanding of spatial distribution of genetic diversity of cherimoya natural stands and cultivated trees in Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru based on microsatellite molecular markers (SSRs); and (2) formulate optimal conservation strategies by revealing priority areas for in situ conservation, and identifying existing diversity gaps in ex situ collections. We found high levels of allelic richness, locally common alleles and expected heterozygosity in cherimoya’s putative centre of origin, southern Ecuador and northern Peru, whereas levels of diversity in southern Peru and especially in Bolivia were significantly lower. The application of GIS on a large microsatellite dataset allows a more detailed prioritization of areas for in situ conservation and targeted collection across the Andean distribution range of cherimoya than previous studies could do, i.e. at province and department level in Ecuador and Peru, respectively.