Life-history variation following habitat degradation associated with differing fine-scale spatial genetic structure in a rainforest cycad
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- Lopez-Gallego, C. & O’Neil, P. Popul Ecol (2010) 52: 191. doi:10.1007/s10144-009-0171-3
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Habitat degradation can result in drastic environmental changes potentially affecting the life-history of populations and aspects of the reproductive biology and the genetic structure within and among populations. Here, we explore how life-history differences between subpopulations from contrasting habitats may affect mating availability, which in turn will indirectly affect the strength of spatial genetic structure within populations of a tropical rainforest cycad (Zamia fairchildiana). Subpopulations exposed to higher light availability in degraded-forest habitats had male individuals that grew faster, reproduced earlier, and invested more in reproduction than in native-forest habitat subpopulations. These differences in life history resulted in degraded-habitat subpopulations showing a higher proportion of reproductive adults and greater mate availability in a reproductive season. Subpopulations in the degraded habitat showed weaker SGS, i.e., a smaller slope in the linear regression of genetic relatedness on linear distance. Environmentally induced changes in life history and subsequent changes in the strength of the SGS after habitat degradation may have important consequences for population viability and should be of concern in conservation.