Population genetics of threatened wild plants in Japan

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Approximately one-fourth of Japan's native plant species are threatened with extinction. To conserve these species, it is critical to evaluate genetic diversity at species-level and population-level. Some factors, including population size and geographic distribution, are known to influence the population genetic diversity of wild plant species. This article briefly reviews the population genetic studies that have been conducted on wild threatened plants in Japan. A large population size or wide geographic distribution does not always lead to large genetic diversity, suggesting that historical factors such as speciation processes and population expansion often play more important roles in determining genetic diversity than the number of remnant individuals. The mating system of a species also affects genetic diversity; predominantly selfing species tend to have smaller genetic diversity than outcrossing congeners. Another issue of concern in the conservation genetics of wild plants in Japan is the genetic diversity of insular endemics, because Japan consists of many islands, and the insular flora contains many endemic and threatened Species. Previous studies on endemic plants on the Bonin and the Ryukyu Islands are reviewed. Compared to the cases of the Bonin Islands or other oceanic islands, there is much larger genetic diversity in plants endemic to the Ryukyu Islands. This difference is probably the result of the differences in the geological history of these islands.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)169-174
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Plant Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2003 Apr


  • Conservation genetics
  • Genetic diversity
  • Geographic range
  • Insular endemics
  • Mating systems
  • Threatened plants


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