Phenotypic Diversity of Almond-Leaved Pear (Pyrus spinosa Forssk.) along Eastern Adriatic Coast
Almond-leaved pear (Pyrus spinosa Forssk., Rosaceae) is a scientifically poorly researched and often overlooked Mediterranean species. It is an insect-pollinated and animal-dispersed spiny, deciduous shrub or a small tree, with high-quality wood and edible fruits. The aim of the study was to assess the phenotypic diversity of almond-leaved pear in the eastern Adriatic region. The examination of phenotypic diversity was based on a morphometric analysis of 17 populations using ten phenotypic
... s of leaves. Varieties of multivariate statistical analyses were conducted to evaluate the within- and among-population diversity. In addition, the Mantel tests were used to test the correlations between geographic, environmental, and phenotypic differences among populations. High phenotypic variability was determined both among and within the studied populations. Leaf-size-related traits proved to be the most variable ones, in contrast to more uniform leaf shape traits. Furthermore, three groups of populations were detected using multivariate statistical analyses. The first group included trees from northern- and southernmost populations characterized by high annual precipitation. However, the trees from the second and third group were highly overlapped without a clear geographical pattern. In addition, we revealed that both environmental and geographical interactions proved to be responsible for the patterns of phenotypic variation between almond-leaved pear populations, indicating significant isolation by environment (IBE) and isolation by distance (IBD) patterns. Overall, our results provide useful information about phenotypic diversity of almond-leaved pear populations for further conservation, breeding, and afforestation programs.