Patterns of genetic diversity in North Africa: Moroccan-Algerian genetic split in Juniperus thurifera subsp. africana

Sci Rep. 2020 Mar 16;10(1):4810. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-61525-x.


Juniperus thurifera is a key element of the forest communities in arid and semi-arid areas of the western Mediterranean. Previous genetic and morphological investigations suggested that Algerian populations are genetically more similar to European than to Moroccan populations and advocated their recognition at the variety rank. We aimed to investigate the spatial genetic structure in J. thurifera to verify the distinct character of the Algerian population in terms of the genetic breaks reported among several North African taxa. We also modelled species distributions since the Eemian to recognise the impact of past climatic changes on the current pattern of diversity and predict possible changes in species distribution in the future. Species-specific microsatellites were used in the analysis of 11 populations from Algeria, Morocco and Europe. We revealed the significant genetic distinctiveness of the Algerian populations from the Moroccan and European stands that may have important taxonomic and conservation implications. The diversity pattern revealed for J. thurifera reflects the east-west genetic splits reported among some North African plant and animal taxa and suggests an impact of shared historical processes. Additionally, modelling of the distribution allowed us to identify possible glacial refugia and their impact on the modern pattern of differentiation in J. thurifera. Reduction of species occurrence, especially in the European domain, is likely according to the future projections of the species distribution.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Africa, Northern
  • Algeria
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Juniperus / genetics*
  • Microsatellite Repeats
  • Morocco
  • Species Specificity