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DNA analysis of Castanea sativa (sweet chestnut) in Britain and Ireland: Elucidating European origins and genepool diversity

DNA analysis of Castanea sativa (sweet chestnut) in Britain and Ireland: Elucidating European origins and genepool diversity

Jarman, Rob ORCID: 0000-0003-1023-0056, Russell, Karen, Mattioni, Claudia, Chambers, Frank M., Bartlett, Debbie ORCID: 0000-0002-5125-6466, Martin, M. Angela, Cherubini, Marcello, Villani, Fiorella and Webb, Julia (2019) DNA analysis of Castanea sativa (sweet chestnut) in Britain and Ireland: Elucidating European origins and genepool diversity. PLOS ONE, 14 (9):e0222936. ISSN 1932-6203 (Online) (doi:

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Castanea sativa is classified as non-indigenous in Britain and Ireland. It was long held that it was first introduced into Britain by the Romans, until a recent study found no corroborative evidence of its growing here before c. AD 650. This paper presents new data on the genetic diversity of C. sativa in Britain and Ireland and potential ancestral sources in continental Europe. Microsatellite markers and analytical methods tested in previous European studies were used to genotype over 600 C. sativa trees and coppice stools, sampled from ancient semi-natural woodlands, secondary woodlands and historic cultural sites across Britain and Ireland. A single overall genepool with a diverse admixture of genotypes was found, containing two sub groups differentiating Wales from Ireland, with discrete geographical and typological clusters. C. sativa genotypes in Britain and Ireland were found to relate predominantly to some sites in Portugal, Spain, France, Italy and Romania, but not to Greece, Turkey or eastern parts of Europe. C. sativa has come to Britain and Ireland from these western European areas, which had acted as refugia in the Last Glacial Maximum; we compare its introduction with the colonization/translocation of oak, ash, beech and hazel into Britain and Ireland. Clones of C. sativa were identified in Britain, defining for the first time the antiquity of some ancient trees and coppice stools, evincing both natural regeneration and anthropogenic propagation over many centuries and informing the chronology of the species’ arrival in Britain. This new evidence on the origins and antiquity of British and Irish C. sativa trees enhances their conservation and economic significance, important in the context of increasing threats from environmental change, pests and pathogens.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Copyright: © 2019 Jarman et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Uncontrolled Keywords: Castanea sativa; sativa trees and coppice stools; sativa genotypes; conservation. environmental change
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
Faculty / Department / Research Group: Faculty of Engineering & Science
Faculty of Engineering & Science > School of Science (SCI)
Last Modified: 04 Oct 2019 10:18
Selected for GREAT 2016: None
Selected for GREAT 2017: None
Selected for GREAT 2018: None
Selected for GREAT 2019: None
Selected for REF2021: None

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