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Molecular data and ecological niche modeling reveal population dynamics of widespread shrub Forsythia suspensa (Oleaceae) in China’s warm-temperate zone in response to climate change during the Pleistocene

Zi-Zhen Fu, Yong-Hua Li, Kai-Ming Zhang and Yong Li*

Author Affiliations

College of Forestry, Henan Agricultural University, Zhengzhou 450002, China

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2014, 14:114  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-14-114

Published: 30 May 2014



Despite its high number of endemic deciduous broad-leaved species in China’s warm-temperate zone, far less attention has been paid to phylogeographic studies in this region. In this work, the phylogeographic history of Forsythia suspensa endemic to China’s warm-temperate zone was investigated to explore the effect of climate change during the Pleistocene on the distribution of this deciduous broad-leaved species in China.


The cpDNA data revealed seven phylogeographical groups corresponding to geographical regions. By contrast, the nrDNA data supported the samples clustered into three groups, which was inconsistent with separate geographical regions supported by cpDNA data. Ecological niche modeling showed that the climatically suitable area during the cold period was larger than that during the warm period.


Both molecular data and ecological niche modeling indicated that F. suspensa expanded to nearby low-elevation plains in the glacial periods, and retreated to mountaintops during interglacial warmer stages. This study thus supported that F. suspensa persisted in situ during the glacial of the Pleistocene with enlarged distribution area, contrary to the hypothesis of long distance southward migration or large-scale range contraction.

cpDNA; nrDNA; Ecological niche model; China’s warm-temperate zone; Molecular phylogeography; Forsythia suspensa