Canadian Forest Service Publications

Evidence for low genetic diversity and metapopulation structure in Canada yew (Taxus Canadensis): considerations for conservation. 2001. Senneville, S.; Beaulieu, J.; Daoust, G.; Deslauriers, M.; Bousquet, J. Can. J. For. Res. 31: 110–116.

Year: 2001

Issued by: Laurentian Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 18937

Language: English

Availability: PDF (request by e-mail)

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Canada yew (Taxus Canadensis Marsh.) is a gymnosperm that grows in the understory of mixed and deciduous forests of northeastern North America. This shrub had no economic importance until the discovery of paclitaxel, or TAXOL®, which is a compound found in plant tissue and used in cancer treatment. With the intensifying harvesting pressure on natural populations of this species, the natural gene pool might be affected. The objective of this study was to estimate the levels of genetic diversity and population structure in Canada yew, before any sizeable effects resulting from harvesting appear. Six natural populations of Canada yew were sampled in Quebec. Genetic diversity was estimated at 22 loci coding for 12 enzyme systems. At the population level, the number of alleles per locus was 1.32, the percentage of polymorphic loci was 26.5%, and the observed heterozygosity was 0.102. These results show that Canada yew is genetically less diverse than other yew species and the great majority of gymnosperms. However, the amount of population differentiation was substantially higher (FST = 10.2%) than that for other conifer and tree species growing in the boreal-temperate zone. Hypotheses related to the biogeography of the species and a likely metapopulation structure are proposed to explain the observed trends.