Taiwan spruce (Picea morrisonicola) is a vulnerable conifer species endemic to the island of Taiwan. A warming climate and competition from subtropical tree species has limited the range of Taiwan spruce to the higher altitudes of the island. Using seeds sampled from an area in the central mountain range of Taiwan, 15 nuclear loci were sequenced in order to measure genetic variation and to assess the long-term genetic stability of the species. Genetic diversity is low and comparable to other spruce species with limited ranges such as Picea breweriana, Picea chihuahuana, and Picea schrenkiana. Importantly, analysis using approximate Bayesian computation (ABC) provides evidence for a drastic decline in the effective population size approximately 0.3-0.5 million years ago (mya). We used simulations to show that this is unlikely to be a false-positive result due to the limited sample used here. To investigate the phylogenetic origin of Taiwan spruce, additional sequencing was performed in the Chinese spruce Picea wilsonii and combined with previously published data for three other mainland China species, Picea purpurea, Picea likiangensis, and P. schrenkiana. Analysis of population structure revealed that P. morrisonicola clusters most closely with P. wilsonii, and coalescent analyses using the program MIMAR dated the split to 4-8 mya, coincidental to the formation of Taiwan. Considering the population decrease that occurred after the split, however, led to a much more recent origin.
Keywords: ABC; Picea morrisonicola; Quaternary; Taiwan; bottleneck; nucleotide diversity; power.