Six populations of the clonal forest floor moss Plagiomnium affine from forests of different age were screened for genetic variation at 23 allozyme loci, of which nine were polymorphic. Samples consisting of two adjacent unconnected shoots were taken at regular intervals along one transect from each population. A total of 602 shoots was analysed. Almost 80% of the shoots were sterile (i.e. not expressing male or female gender). Sex remained unknown for only 10% of shoots after identification of genets based on electrophoretic data. We identified a mean number of 3.7 fertile clones per population. The mean length of clones along transects in each population ranged between 2 and 3 in. The size distribution within populations was bimodal, with a few dominant clones and a varying number of much smaller clones. The overall sex ratio was slightly female biased at the ramet level, but balanced at the genet level. Forest age was negatively correlated with percentage of sterile shoots and positively correlated with frequency of sporophytes. In both cases correlations were significant only if population 1, which was subject to extreme soil disturbance by badgers, was excluded. We conclude that the effective population size is larger, and the susceptibility to genetic drift is lower, in old forests.
Reproduction and within-species diversity in relation to habitat history