We investigated species divergence, present and past gene flow, levels of nucleotide polymorphism, and linkage disequilibrium in two willows from the plant genus Salix. Salix belongs together with Populus to the Salicaceae family; however, most population genetic studies of Salicaceae have been performed in Populus, the model genus in forest biology. Here we present a study on two closely related willow species Salix viminalis and S. schwerinii, in which we have resequenced 33 and 32 nuclear gene segments representing parts of 18 nuclear loci in 24 individuals for each species. We used coalescent simulations and estimated the split time to around 600,000 years ago and found that there is currently limited gene flow between the species. Mean intronic nucleotide diversity across gene segments was slightly higher in S. schwerinii (π(i) = 0.00849) than in S. viminalis (π(i) = 0.00655). Compared with other angiosperm trees, the two willows harbor intermediate levels of silent polymorphisms. The decay of linkage disequilibrium was slower in S. viminalis compared with S. schwerinii, and we speculate that this is due to different demographic histories as S. viminalis has been partly domesticated in Europe.
Keywords: Salix; gene flow; linkage disequilibrium; nucleotide polymorphism; species divergence.