Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution

, Volume 64, Issue 6, pp 1253–1268 | Cite as

Morphological and genetic diversity of shea tree (Vitellaria paradoxa) in the savannah regions of Ghana

  • Issaka AbdulaiEmail author
  • Konstantin V. Krutovsky
  • Reiner Finkeldey
Research Article


Vitellaria paradoxa C. F. Gaertn., commonly known as shea tree or Vitellaria, is ranked the most important tree species of the savannah regions in the most African countries due to its ecological and economic importance for livelihoods and national economies. However, the savannah regions are the most vulnerable areas to the global climate change. Moreover, the Vitellaria populations on farmlands are threatened by the dominance of old trees with low or lack of regeneration. In this study both morphological and genetic diversity were assessed using several phenotypic traits and 10 microsatellite markers, respectively, to assess the impact of land use and agro-ecozone types on Vitellaria in Ghana. The land use types were forests and farmlands, and the agro-ecozone types included the Transitional, Guinea, and Sudan savannah zones. The mean values of morphological traits, such as diameter at breast height (DBH) and canopy diameter (CD), were statistically different between forest (DBH = 22.20, CD = 5.37) and farmland (DBH = 39.85 CD = 7.49) populations (P < 0.00001). The Sudan savannah zone with mean petiole length of 4.96 cm showed significant difference from the other zones, likely as a result of adaptation to drier climate conditions. Genetic data analysis was based on 10 microsatellite markers and revealed high genetic diversity of Vitellaria in Ghana: mean expected heterozygosity, H e was 0.667, and allelic richness, measured as number of effective alleles A e , was 4.066. Both farmlands and forests were very diverse indicating lack of negative influence of farmer’s selection on genetic diversity. Fixation index was positive for all populations (mean F IS = 0.136) with farmlands recording relatively higher values than forests in all ecological zone types studied, probably indicating less gene flow in the farmlands. Moderate differentiation (F′ ST = 0.113) was comparable to other similar tree species. Both land use and ecological zone types influenced genetic differentiation of Vitellaria at varying levels. The species was spatially structured across three ecozones and following climatic gradient. The forest reserves are used in situ conservation for Vitellaria in Ghana. High diversity observed in the most arid zones provides opportunity to find and use appropriate plant materials for breeding climate change resilient trees.


Fixation index Genetic diversity Heterozygosity Microsatellite Savannah Vitellaria paradoxa 



We thank Alexandra Dolynska at the laboratory of Department of Forest Genetics and Tree Breeding, University of Goettingen Germany for the technical support with the laboratory analysis and Dr. E. A. Abeney of Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technolog Kumasi Ghana for his support during field work. This study was made possible by the financial support of the DAAD (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst) through scholarship to the first author from Ghana.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors have no conflict of interest to declare.

Ethical standards

The study complies with the current laws of Ghana, in which it was performed.


  1. Akpona TJD, Akpona HA, Djossa BA, Savi MK, Daïnou KA, Ayihouenou B, Glèlè Kakaï R (2015) Impact of land use practices on traits and production of shea butter tree (Vitellaria paradoxa C. F. Gaertn.) in Pendjari Biosphere Reserve in Benin. Agrofor Syst 90:607–615. doi: 10.1007/s10457-015-9847-1 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Allal F, Vaillant A, Sanou H, Kelly B, Bouvet JM (2008) Isolation and characterization of new microsatellite markers in shea tree (Vitellaria paradoxa C. F. Gaertn.). Mol Ecol Resour 8:822–824CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Allal F, Sanou H, Millet L, Vaillant A, Camus-Kulandaivelu L, Logossa Z, Bouvet JM (2011) Past climate changes explain the phylogeography of Vitellaria paradoxa over Africa. Heredity 107:174–186CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  4. Antoni F (2002) Applications of single nucleotide polymorphisms in crop genetics. Curr Opin Plant Biol 5(2):94–100CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bayala J, Ouedraogo SJ, Teklehaimanot Z (2008) Rejuvenating indigenous trees in agroforestry parkland systems for better fruit production using crown pruning. Agrofor Syst 72:187–194. doi: 10.1007/s10457-007-9099-9 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bayala J, Sanou J, Teklehaimanot Z, Kalinganire A, Ouédraogo SJ (2014) Parklands for buffering climate risk and sustaining agricultural production in the Sahel of West Africa. Curr Opin Environ Sustain 6:28–34CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Boffa JM (1999) Agroforestry parklands in sub-Saharan Africa. FAO conservation guide 34 Rome: FAOGoogle Scholar
  8. Boffa JM, Yaméogo G, Nikiéma P, Knudson DM, Temu AB, Melnyk M, Vantomme P (1996) Shea nut (Vitellaria paradoxa) production and collection in agroforestry parklands of Burkina Faso. In: Proceedings of an international conference Domestication and commercialization of non-timber forest products in agroforestry system held in Nairobi (Kenya) 19–23 Feb 1996 FAO, Roma (Italia)Google Scholar
  9. Botstein D, White R, Skolnick M, Davis R (1980) Construction of a genetic linkage map in man using restriction fragment length polymorphisms. Am J Hum Genet 32:314–333PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  10. Bouvet JM, Kelly B, Sanou H, Allal F (2008) Comparison of marker- and pedigree-based methods for estimating heritability in an agroforestry population of Vitellaria paradoxa C. F. Gaertn. (shea tree). Genet Resour Crop Evol 55:1291–1301CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cardi C, Vaillant A, Sanou H, Kelly B, Bouvet JM (2005) Characterization of microsatellite markers in the shea tree (Vitellaria paradoxa C. F. Gaertn.) in Mali. Mol Ecol Notes 5:524–526CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Carette C, Malotaux M, van Leeuwen M, Tolkamp M (2009) Shea nut and butter in Ghana: opportunities and constraints for local processing. Report of the project on the opportunities of shea nuts for Northern Ghana, pp 1–88Google Scholar
  13. Collevatti R, Grattapaglia D, Hay J (2001) Evidence for multiple lineages of Caryocar brasiliense populations in the Brazilian Cerrado based on the analysis of chloroplast DNA sequence and microsatellite haplotype variation. Mol Ecol 12:105–115CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Djossa B, Fahr J, Wiegand T, Ayihouenou B, Kalko E, Sinsi B (2007) Land use impact on Vitellaria paradoxa C. F. Gaertn. stand structure and distribution patterns: a comparison of Biosphere Reserve of Pendjari in Atacora district in Benin. Agrofor Syst 72:205–220CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dutech C, Joly H, Jarne P (2004) Gene flow, historical population dynamics and genetic diversity within French Guianan populations of a rainforest tree species, Vouacapoua americana. Heredity 92:69–77CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Earl D, von Holdt B (2012) STRUCTURE HARVESTER: a website and program for visualizing STRUCTURE output and implementing the Evanno method conservation. Genet Resour 4:359–361CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Ekue M, Gailing O, Vornam B, Finkedey R (2011) Assessment of the domestication state of ackee (Blighia sapida KD Koenig) in Benin based on AFLP and microsatellite markers. Conserv Genet 12:475–489CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Evanno G, Regnaut S, Goudet J (2005) Detecting the number of clusters of individuals using the software structure: a simulation study. Mol Ecol 14:2611–2620CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) (2010) Global forest resources assessment 2010Google Scholar
  20. Fobil J (2002) Horizon solution site.
  21. Fontaine C, Lovett P, Sanou H, Maley J, Bouvet J-M (2004) Genetic diversity of the shea tree (Vitellaria paradoxa C. F. Gaertn.), detected by RAPD and chloroplast microsatellite markers. Heredity 93:639–648CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Gijsbers H, Kessler J, Knevel M (1994) Dynamics and natural regeneration of woody species in farmed parklands in the Sahel region (Province of Passore, Burkina Faso). For Ecol Manag 64:1–12CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Gwali S, Vaillant A, Nakabonge G, Okullo JB, Eilu G, Muchugi A, Bouvet JM (2014) Genetic diversity in shea tree (Vitellaria paradoxa subspecies nilotica) ethno-varieties in Uganda assessed with microsatellite markers. For Trees Livelihoods 24:163–175. doi: 10.1080/14728028.2014.956808 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hall J, Aebischer D, Tomlinson H, Osei-Amaning E, Hindle J (1996) Vitellaria paradoxa: a monograph Bangor: School of Agriculture and Forest Sciences publication number 8 University of WalesGoogle Scholar
  25. Hamrick J, Godt M, Sherman-Broyles S (1992) Factors influencing levels of genetic diversity in woody plant species. New For 6:95–124CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hollingsworth P, Dawson I, Goodall-Copestake W, Richardson J, Weber J, Sotelo Montes C, Pennington R (2005) Do farmers reduce genetic diversity when they domesticate tropical trees? A case study from Amazonia. Mol Ecol 14:497–501CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. IUCN (1998) The IUCN red list of threatened species. http://www.iucnredlistorg/details/37083/0
  28. John A, Melvin L, Susan C, Sophia C, Scott L, Fredrick A, Yaw A (2011) Ghana climate change vulnerability and adaptation assessment. Washington, DC: United States Agency for International Development (USAID)Google Scholar
  29. Kelly B, Bouvet JM, Picard N (2004a) Size class distribution and spatial pattern of Vitellaria paradoxa in relation to farmers’ practices in Mali. Agrofor Syst 60:3–11CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Kelly B, Hardy O, Bouvet JM (2004b) Temporal and spatial genetic structure in Vitellaria paradoxa (shea tree) in an agroforestry system in southern Mali. Mol Ecol 13:1231–1240CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Kelly B, Gourlet F, Bouvet JM (2007) Impact of agroforestry practices on the flowering phenology of Vitellaria paradoxa in parklands in southern Mali. Agrofor Syst 71:67–75CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Kimberly AS, Robert JT (2006) Microsatellites for ecologists: a practical guide to using and evaluating microsatellite markers. Ecol Lett 9:615–629CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Lagossa Z, Camus-Kulandaivelu L, Allal F, Vaillant A, Sanou H, Kokou K, Bouvet JM (2011) Molecular data reveal isolation by distance and past population expansion for the shea tree (Vitellaria paradoxa C. F. Gaertn.) in West Africa. Mol Ecol 20:4009–4027CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Langella O (1999) Populations version 1.2. 32. Distributed by the author, CNRS UPR9034, FranceGoogle Scholar
  35. Lemes M, Gribel R, Proctor J, Grattapaglia D (2003) Population genetic structure of mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla King, Meliaceae) across the Brazilian Amazon, based on variation at microsatellite loci: implications for conservation. Mol Ecol 12:2875–2883CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Lhuillier E, Butaud JF, Bouvet JM (2006) Extensive clonality and strong differentiation in the insular pacific tree Santalum insulare: implications for its conservation. Ann Bot 98:1061–1072CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  37. Lovett P, Haq N (2000a) Evidence for anthropic selection of the Shea nut tree (Vitellaria paradoxa). Agrofor Syst 48:273–288CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Lovett P, Haq N (2000b) Diversity of the Sheanut tree (Vitellaria paradoxa C. F. Gaertn.) in Ghana. Genet Resour Crop Ev 47:293–304CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Maranz S, Kpikpi W, Wiesman Z, Armelle De Saint S, Chapagain B (2003) Nutritional values and indigenous preferences for shea fruits (Vitellaria paradoxa C. F. Gaertn) in African agroforestry parklands. Econ Bot 58(4):588–600CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Maranz S, Wiesman Z, Bisgaard J, Bianchi G (2004) Germplasm resources of Vitellaria paradoxa based on variations in fat composition across the species distribution range. Agrofor Syst 60:71–76CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Masters E, Yidana J, Lovett P (2004) Reinforcing sound management through trade: shea tree products in Africa. Int J For For Ind Unasylva 55(219):46–52Google Scholar
  42. Meirmans P, Hedrick P (2011) Assessing population structure: F ST and related measures. Mol Ecol Resour 11:5–18CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. Menczer K, Quaye E (2006) USAID/Ghana environmental threats and opportunities assessment (FAA 118/9 assessment) Accra: USAIDGoogle Scholar
  44. Minia Z (2008) Climate change scenario development. In Agyemang-Bonsu WK (ed) Ghana climate change impacts, vulnerability and adaptation assessments Accra: environmental protection agency, Ghana, pp 2–13Google Scholar
  45. Moore S (2008) The role of Vitellaria paradoxa in poverty reduction and food security in the Upper East region of Ghana. Earth Environ 3:209–245Google Scholar
  46. Morgante M, Olivieri AM (1993) PCR-amplified microsatellites as markers in plant genetics. Plant J 3(1):175–182CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  47. Muller F, Voccia M, Ba A, Bouvet J (2009) Genetic diversity and gene flow in a Caribbean tree Pterocarpus officinalis Jacq: a study based on chloroplast and nuclear microsatellites. Genetica 135:185–198CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  48. Nei M (1972) Genetic distance between populations. Am Nat 106:283–392CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Neumann K, Kahlheber S, Uebel D (1998) Remains of woody plants from Saouga, a medieval west African village. Veg Hist Archaeobot 7:57–77CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Okullo J, Hall J, Masters E (2003) Reproductive biology and breeding systems of Vitellaria paradoxa. In: Improved management of agroforestry parkland systems in Sub-Saharan Afria. EU/INCO project contract IC18-CT98-0261. University of Wales Bangor, Bangor, UKGoogle Scholar
  51. Okullo J, Hall J, Obua J (2004) Leafing, flowering and fruiting of Vitellaria paradoxa subsp nilotica in savanna parklands in Uganda. Agrofor Syst 60:77–91CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Oppong-Anane K (2006) Country pasture/forage resource profiles. Publishing Policy and Support Branch, Office of Knowledge Exchange, Research and Extensions, FAO, RomeGoogle Scholar
  53. Owusu M (1994) A country study: Ghana. Library of Congress Publication, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  54. Peakall R, Smouse P (2012) GenAlEx 65: genetic analysis in Excel Population genetic software for teaching and research-an update. Bioinformatics 28:2537–2539CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  55. Pritchard J, Stephens M, Donnelly P (2000) Inference of population structure using multilocus genotype data. Genetics 155:945–959PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  56. Raebild A, Hansen U, Kambou S (2012) Regeneration of Vitellaria paradoxa and Parkia biglobosa in a parkland in Southern Burkina Faso. Agrofor Syst 85:443–453CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Rajeev K, Andreas G, Mark E (2005) Genic microsatellite markers in plants: features and applications. Trends Biotechnol 23(1):48–55CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Sanou H, Lamien N (2011) Vitellaria paradoxa, shea butter tree conservation and sustainable use of genetic resources of priority food tree species in sub-Saharan Africa Rome: Bioversity InternationalGoogle Scholar
  59. Sanou H, Lovett P, Bouvet JM (2005) Comparison of quantitative and molecular variation in agroforestry populations of the shea tree (Vitellaria paradoxa C. F. Gaertn.) in Mali. Mol Ecol 14:2601–2610CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  60. Sanou H, Picard N, Lovett P, Dembele M, Korbo A, Diarisso D, Bouvet J-M (2006) Phenotypic variation of agromorphological traits of the shea tree, Vitellaria paradoxa C. F. Gaertn., in Mali. Genet Resour Crop Evol 53:145–161CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Schreckenberg K (1996) Forests, fields and markets: a study of indigenous tree products in the woody savannas of the Bassila region, Benin PhD thesis. University of London, LondonGoogle Scholar
  62. Siaw D (2001) State of forest genetic resources in Ghana Rome: FAO, IPGRI/SAFORGEN, DFSC and ICRAFGoogle Scholar
  63. Sneath P, Sokal R (1973) Numeric taxonomy: the principles and practice of numerical classification San Francisco: WH FreemanGoogle Scholar
  64. Statistics, Research and Information Directorate (SRID) (2001) Agriculture in Ghana acts and figures. Ministry of Food and Agriculture Accra GhanaGoogle Scholar
  65. Teklehaimanot Z (2004) Exploiting the potential of indigenous agroforestry trees: Parkia biglobosa and Vitellaria paradoxa in sub-Saharan Africa. Agrofor Syst 61:207–220Google Scholar
  66. Tuffuor K (1996) National report on the Forestry Policy of Ghana. Forestry policies of selected countries in Africa FAO forestry paper 132Google Scholar
  67. Ueno S, Setsuko S, Kawahara T, Yoshimaru H (2005) Genetic diversity and differentiation of the endangered Japanese endemic tree Magnolia stellata using nuclear and chloroplast microsatellite markers. Conserv Genet 6:563–574CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Vos P, Hogers R, Bleeker M, Reijans M, Van de Lee T, Hornes M, Friters A, Pot J, Paleman J, Kuiper M, Zabeau M (1995) AFLP: a new technique for DNA fingerprinting. Nucleic Acids Res 23(21):4407–4414CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  69. Welsh J, McClelland M (1990) Fingerprinting genomes using PCR with arbitrary primers. Nucleic Acids Res 18:7213–7218CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  70. World Agroforestry Center (2016) Agroforestree database.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Crop Production Systems in the TropicsGeorg-August-University of GoettingenGöttingenGermany
  2. 2.Department of Forest Genetics and Forest Tree BreedingGeorg-August-University of GoettingenGöttingenGermany
  3. 3.Department of Ecosystem Science and ManagementTexas A&M UniversityCollege StationUSA
  4. 4.Laboratory of Population Genetics, N. I. Vavilov Institute of General GeneticsRussian Academy of SciencesMoscowRussia
  5. 5.Laboratory of Forest Genomics, Genome Research and Education CenterSiberian Federal UniversityKrasnoyarskRussia
  6. 6.University of KasselKasselGermany

Personalised recommendations