Natural Resources and Environmental Studies Institute, University of Northern British Columbia, 3333 University Way, Prince George, BC V2N 4Z9, Canada.
Dothistroma septosporum has caused a serious needle blight epidemic in the lodgepole pine forests in northwest British Columbia over the past several years. Although ascocarps had been observed in British Columbia, nothing was known about the contribution of sexual reproduction, gene flow and long-distance dispersal to the epidemic. Amplified fragment length polymorphism and mating-type markers in 19 sites were used to generate population and reproductive data. Overall, evidence suggests a mixed mode of reproduction. Haplotypic diversity was high, with 79 unique and 56 shared haplotypes (possible clones) identified from 192 fungal isolates. Overall, mating-type segregation did not differ significantly from 1:1; however, random mating was rejected in most populations in the index of association and parsimony tree-length permutation analyses using the full data set and, when using clone-corrected data sets, more of the smaller populations showed random mating. Two of the smaller populations consistently showed random mating for both tests using both clone-corrected and noncorrected data. High gene flow is suggested by no differentiation between 14 of the 19 sites, several of which came from young plantations where the pathogen was not likely present prior to the current outbreak. The remaining five sites showed some level of divergence, possibly due to historic separation and endemic pathogen populations. Results indicate a high evolutionary potential and long-distance dispersal in this pathogen, important to consider in future forest management.