Incorporating differences between genetic diversity of trees and herbaceous plants in conservation strategies

Mi Yoon Chung, Sungwon Son, Sonia Herrando-Moraira, Cindy Q. Tang, Masayuki Maki, Young Dong Kim, Jordi López-Pujol, James L. Hamrick, Myong Gi Chung

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Reviews that summarize the genetic diversity of plant species in relation to their life history and ecological traits show that forest trees have more genetic diversity at population and species levels than annuals or herbaceous perennials. In addition, among-population genetic differentiation is significantly lower in trees than in most herbaceous perennials and annuals. Possible reasons for these differences between trees and herbaceous perennials and annuals have not been discussed critically. Several traits, such as high rates of outcrossing, long-distance pollen and seed dispersal, large effective population sizes (Ne), arborescent stature, low population density, longevity, overlapping generations, and occurrence in late successional communities, may make trees less sensitive to genetic bottlenecks and more resistant to habitat fragmentation or climate change. We recommend that guidelines for genetic conservation strategies be designed differently for tree species versus other types of plant species. Because most tree species fit an LH scenario (low [L] genetic differentiation and high [H] genetic diversity), tree seeds could be sourced from a few populations distributed across the species’ range. For the in situ conservation of trees, translocation is a viable option to increase Ne. In contrast, rare herbaceous understory species are frequently HL (high differentiation and low diversity) species. Under the HL scenario, seeds should be taken from many populations with high genetic diversity. In situ conservation efforts for herbaceous plants should focus on protecting habitats because the typically small populations of these species are vulnerable to the loss of genetic diversity. The robust allozyme genetic diversity databases could be used to develop conservation strategies for species lacking genetic information. As a case study of reforestation with several tree species in denuded areas on the Korean Peninsula, we recommend the selection of local genotypes as suitable sources to prevent adverse effects and to insure the successful restoration in the long term.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1142-1151
Number of pages10
JournalConservation Biology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Oct 1


  • Apalaches del sur
  • Baekdudaegan Mountains
  • diversidad genética
  • especies herbáceas
  • especies leñosas
  • genetic diversity
  • herbaceous species
  • montañas Baekdudaegan
  • southern Appalachians
  • southwestern China
  • suroeste de China
  • woody species
  • 中国西南部
  • 木本物种
  • 白头山山脉
  • 草本物种
  • 遗传多样性
  • 阿巴拉契山脉南部

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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