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Molecular analysis of genetic variation

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Knowledge of the underlying level structure and origin of genetic variation within and between plant populations is crucial for scientific approaches to their utilization and conservation (Yeh1989; Hamrick 1993). Determinants of the level and structure of genetic variation within plant species include mating system evolutionary history life-history characteristics population density and mechanisms of gene flow (Schaal 1980; Loveless and Hamrick 1984; Hamrick et al. 1992; Loveless 1992). In addition to the within-species issues potentially complex interactions among species must be considered (Rieseberg and Brunsfeld 1992; Rieseberg and Wendel 1993). Although morphological characters and various production traits have traditionally been used to characterize levels and patterns of diversity these traits alone represent only a small portion of the genome and are also influenced by environmental factors thereby limiting their utility in describing the potentially complex genetic structures which may exist within and among taxa (Avise 1994).

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