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Plant Diversity and Resources

Congruent Species Delimitation of Two Controversial Gold-thread Nanmu Tree Species Based on Morphological and RAD-seq Data

Xin Ding1,3, Jian Hua Xiao1,3, Lang Li1, John G. Conran2, and Jie Li1*

1Plant Phylogenetics and Conservation Group, Centre for Integrative Conservation, Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Kunming 650223, China

2School of Biological Sciences and Australian Centre for Evolutionary Biology and Biodiversity and Sprigg Geobiology Centre, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia, SA 5005, Australia

3University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China

Keywords: delimitation, distribution areas, gold-thread nanmu, morphological characters, P. bournei and P. zhennan, restriction site-associated DNA sequencing (RAD-seq).


Species delimitation is fundamental to conservation and sustainable use of economically important forest tree species. However, the delimitation of two highly valued gold-thread nanmu species (Phoebe bournei and P. zhennan) has been confusing and debated. To address this problem, we integrated morphology and restriction site-associated DNA sequencing (RAD-seq) to define their species boundaries. We obtained consistent results from the two data sets, supporting two distinct lineages corresponding to P. bournei and P. zhennan. In P. bournei, higher order leaf venation is more prominent, petioles are thicker, and leaf apex angle is narrower, compared to P. zhennan. Both data sets also revealed that the former putative P. bournei populations from north-eastern Guizhou belong to P. zhennan. The two species are now distinct in distributions except overlapping in the Wuling Mountains. Phoebe bournei occurs mainly in Central Fujian, southern Jiangxi, the Nanling Mountains and the Wuling Mountains, whereas P. zhennan is found in the adjoining eastern regions of the Qionglai Mountains, the southern Sichuan hills and the Wuling Mountains. The re-delimitation of P. bournei and P. zhennan and clarification of their ranges provide a better scientific basis guiding the conservation and sustainable utilization of these tree species.

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