Laurel forest is often regarded as an ancient type of woodland as reflected in the ‘Tertiary relict’ hypothesis. The Canary Islands are one of the present day hotspots of laurel forest harbouring remarkable species richness and endemism. In recent decades there has been a rapid decline in and severe threats to the biodiversity of laurel forest populations worldwide.
Betzin et al. undertake an extensive fine-scale sampling for genetic analysis of the laurel tree (Laurus novo-canariensis) and the endemic gentian Ixanthus viscosus. Through their extensive phylogeographic investigation of contemporary population dynamics for these archaic forest populations they find evidence indicating contemporary gene flow and dispersal on a micro/local scale.