Aim: Late Quaternary glaciations left an enduring imprint on the distribution of species and their genetic structure. The responses of plants endemic to the Alps can be summarized in three major demographic hypotheses: (i) post-glacial expansion hypothesis; (ii) post-glacial contraction hypothesis; and (iii) long-term stability hypothesis. Here we test these hypotheses and reconstruct the time and extent of demographic responses of an endemic plant to the Late Quaternary climate dynamics. Location: European Alps. Taxon: Berardia subacaulis Vill. (Asteraceae). Methods: We used species distribution models to estimate the paleodistribution of B. subacaulis (Asteraceae) throughout the last 28 Ky and generated genome-wide sequences to estimate current patterns of spatial structure of genetic diversity. We tested five demographic models by integrating the results of the two independent approaches in an Approximate Bayesian Computation framework. Results: The species has weak genetic differentiation among populations, with two main genetic groups. Species distribution models showed a reduction in potentially suitable areas for B. subacaulis during the post-glacial climate warming and demographic models identified a recent split (2.46 Kya) between the two genetic groups and they slightly supported the post glacial contraction hypothesis. Main conclusions: Taken together, our results support the post-glacial contraction of an endemic plant, differing from the main pattern observed for endemics species in the European Alps during the Late Quaternary. The different pattern observed in B. subacaulis might be due to several factors, including the less severe effects of glaciations and the environmental heterogeneity of the South Western Alps, combined with some features of the species (i.e. poor dispersal ability, slow growth and microhabitat preferences). Future research in areas where the ice cover was less extensive will contribute to a more complete understanding of the role of climatic changes in shaping the endemics of the European Alps.
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