Variable gene dispersal conditions and spatial deforestation patterns can interact to affect tropical tree conservation outcomes

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Tropical lowland rain forest (TLRF) biodiversity is under threat from anthropogenic factors including deforestation which creates forest fragments of different sizes that can further undergo various internal patterns of logging. Such interventions can modify previous equilibrium abundance and spatial distribution patterns of offspring recruitment and/or pollen dispersal. Little is known about how these aspects of deforestation and fragmentation might synergistically affect TLRF tree recovery demographics and population genetics in newly formed forest fragments. To investigate these TLRF anthropogenic disturbance processes we used the computer program NEWGARDEN (NG), which models spatially-explicit, individual-based plant populations, to simulate 10% deforestation in six different spatial logging patterns for the plant functional type of a long-lived TLRF canopy tree species. Further, each logging pattern was analyzed under nine varying patterns of offspring versus pollen dispersal distances that could have arisen post-fragmentation. Results indicated that gene dispersal condition (especially via offspring) had a greater effect on population growth and genetic diversity retention (explaining 98.5% and 88.8% of the variance respectively) than spatial logging pattern (0.2% and 4.7% respectively), with 'Near' distance dispersal maximizing population growth and genetic diversity relative to distant dispersal. Within logged regions of the fragment, deforestation patterns closer to fragment borders more often exhibited lower population recovery rates and founding genetic diversity retention relative to more centrally located logging. These results suggest newly isolated fragments have populations that are more sensitive to the way in which their offspring and pollen dispersers are affected than the spatial pattern in which subsequent logging occurs, and that large variation in the recovery rates of different TLRF tree species attributable to altered gene dispersal regimens will be a likely outcome of fragmentation. Conservation implications include possible manual interventions (manual manipulations of offspring dispersers and/or pollinators) in forest fragments to increase population recovery and genetic diversity retention.




Kashimshetty, Y., Pelikan, S., & Rogstad, S. H. (2015). Variable gene dispersal conditions and spatial deforestation patterns can interact to affect tropical tree conservation outcomes. PLoS ONE, 10(5).

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