Isolation of Metrosideros (ʻOhiʻa) Taxa on Oʻahu Increases with Elevation and Extreme Environments

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Journal of Heredity





First page number:


Last page number:



Species radiations should be facilitated by short generation times and limited dispersal among discontinuous populations. Hawaii’s hyper-diverse, landscape-dominant tree, Metrosideros, is unique among the islands’ radiations for its massive populations that occur continuously over space and time within islands, its exceptional capacity for gene flow by both pollen and seed, and its extended life span (ca. >650 years). Metrosideros shows the greatest phenotypic and microsatellite DNA diversity on Oʻahu, where taxa occur in tight sympatry or parapatry in mesic and montane wet forest on 2 volcanoes. We document the nonrandom distributions of 12 taxa (including unnamed morphotypes) along elevation gradients, measure phenotypes of ~6-year-old common-garden plants of 8 taxa to verify heritability of phenotypes, and examine genotypes of 476 wild adults at 9 microsatellite loci to compare the strengths of isolation across taxa, volcanoes, and distance. All 8 taxa retained their diagnostic phenotypes in the common garden. Populations were isolated by taxon to a range of degrees (pairwise FST between taxa: 0.004–0.267), and there was no pattern of isolation by distance or by elevation; however, significant isolation between volcanoes was observed within monotypic species, suggesting limited gene flow between volcanoes. Among the infraspecific taxa of Metrosideros polymorpha, genetic diversity and isolation significantly decreased and increased, respectively, with elevation. Overall, 5 of the 6 most isolated taxa were associated with highest elevations or otherwise extreme environments. These findings suggest a principal role for selection in the origin and maintenance of the exceptional diversity that occurs within continuous Metrosideros stands on Oʻahu.


Cliffs; Hawai'i; Microsatellites; Sympatry; Wind; Woody species


Forest Sciences | Life Sciences | Other Forestry and Forest Sciences



UNLV article access

Search your library