Efficient use of any breeding resources requires a good understanding of the genetic value of the founder breeding materials for predicting the gain and diversity in future generations. This study evaluates the distribution of genetic variation and level of relatedness among and within nine breeding populations of Norway spruce for Northern Sweden using nuclear microsatellite markers. A sample set of 456 individuals selected from 140 stands were genotyped with 15 SSR loci. Over all loci each individual was identified with unique multilocus genotype. High genetic diversity (average He=0.820) and low population differentiation (FST=0.0087) characterized this material. Although low in FST, the two northernmost populations were clustered as a distinct group diverged from the central populations. The population differentiation pattern corresponds well with the post glacial migration history of Norway spruce and the current gene flow and human activity in the region. The average inbreeding coefficient was 0.084 after removal loci with high frequency of null alleles. The estimated relatedness of the trees gathered in the breeding populations was very low (average kinship coefficient 0.0077) and not structured. The high genetic variation and low and not structured relatedness between individuals found in the breeding populations confirm that the Norway spruce breeding stock for northern Sweden represent valuable genetic resources for both long-term breeding and conservation programs.
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