, Volume 54, Issue 1, pp 189-204
Date: 19 May 2006

Maintaining Genetic Resources of Peach Palm (Bactris gasipaes Kunth): The Role of Seed Migration and Swidden-fallow Management in Northeastern Peru

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Knowledge of the effects of farmer practices on population genetic parameters of peach palm (Bactris gasipaes Kunth) is relevant to the improvement and conservation of the palm’s genetic resources. Microsatellite markers were used to assess genetic diversity and population structure of peach palm in swidden-fallow agroforestry systems in northeastern Peru. The study covered eight communities, comprising two study areas 160 km apart – one occupied by indigenous Amerindians and the other by mixed race campesinos. Simultaneous analysis of an ex situ peach palm germplasm collection provided a means to compare population genetic parameters. Farmers who were surveyed on seed selection practices for peach palm reported that an average of only four palms (4.3 for campesino and 1.5 for indigenous populations) were used to provide seed for the establishment of the forest gardens sampled. As expected, inbreeding coefficients observed within communities were relatively high (f = 0.105 − 0.210), however, observed heterozygosities within communities were also high (0.625–0.741). A metapopulation approach was used to describe migration within and among regions, implying a hierarchical structure of gene flow which maintains relatively high levels of genetic diversity. Seed migration was found to occur over longer distances (≤600 km) and at a higher frequency (46% of palms sampled) in the indigenous study area, and a proportionally greater number of alleles was found (49 vs. 43 over three loci) with twice as many private alleles occurring only in the indigenous populations. The farmers’ practice of preserving remnant palms through successive swidden generations may have contributed to the maintenance of alleles by reducing the severity of founder effects. Although the campesino study area exhibited a significant (20% of the variation; p < 0.01) isolation-by-distance relationship across 35 km distance, in general, both study populations had relatively limited genetic structure (θ = 0.012–0.03), which is believed to have resulted from the exchange of seeds over long distances and periods of time.