, Volume 139, Issue 9, pp 1159-1168
Date: 30 Nov 2011

Diversity and genetic connectivity among populations of a threatened tree (Dalbergia nigra) in a recently fragmented landscape of the Brazilian Atlantic Forest

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Abstract

In this study we evaluated the influence of recent landscape fragmentation on the dynamics of remnant fragments from the Brazilian Atlantic Forest. This biome is one of the richest in the world and has been extensively deforested and fragmented. We sampled five populations of the threatened Dalbergia nigra, a tree endemic to the Brazilian Atlantic Forest, two located in a large reserve of continuous forest and three in fragments of different sizes and levels of disturbance. In order to assess historical changes, considering the longevity of the analyzed species, 119 adults and 116 saplings were genotyped for six microsatellite loci. Lower levels of genetic diversity were found in the most impacted fragments when compared to the most preserved population located inside the reserve, and there was significant genetic structure among the populations studied (pairwise F ST = 0.031–0.152; pairwise D EST = 0.039–0.301). However, genetic structure among saplings (F ST = 0.056; D EST = 0.231) was significantly lower than among adults (F ST = 0.088; D EST = 0.275). Estimates of contemporary gene flow based on assignment tests corroborated this result, suggesting that fragmentation led to an increase in gene flow. This connectivity among remnant fragments could mitigate the loss of genetic diversity through a metapopulation dynamic, but the high rate of habitat loss and the unknown long-term genetic effects add uncertainty. These results, taken together with the presence of private alleles in disturbed populations, highlight the importance of preserving the extant fragments.