Long-distance dispersal in a fire- and livestock-protected savanna



Roberto Tarazi, Departamento de Genética, Universidade de São Paulo, CP 9, Piracicaba, SP, 13418-900, Brazil. Tel: +55 19 34294250; Fax: +55 19 34294125; E-mail: betotarazi@yahoo.com.br


Savannas are highly diverse and dynamic environments that can shift to forest formations due to protection policies. Long-distance dispersal may shape the genetic structure of these new closed forest formations. We analyzed eight microsatellite loci using a single-time approach to understand contemporary pollen and effective seed dispersal of the tropical tree, Copaifera langsdorffii Desf. (Fabaceae), occurring in a Brazilian fire- and livestock-protected savanna. We sampled all adult trees found within a 10.24 ha permanent plot, young trees within a subplot of 1.44 ha and open-pollinated seeds. We detected a very high level of genetic diversity among the three generations in the studied plot. Parentage analysis revealed high pollen immigration rate (0.64) and a mean contemporary pollen dispersal distance of 74 m. In addition, half-sib production was 1.8 times higher than full-sibs in significant higher distances, indicating foraging activity preference for different trees at long distances. There was a significant and negative correlation between diameter at breast height (DBH) of the pollen donor with the number of seeds (r = −0.640, P-value = 0.032), suggesting that pollen donor trees with a higher DBH produce less seeds. The mean distance of realized seed dispersal (recruitment kernel) was 135 m due to the large home range dispersers (birds and mammals) in the area. The small magnitude of spatial genetic structure found in young trees may be a consequence of overlapping seed shadows and increased tree density. Our results show the positive side of closed canopy expansion, where animal activities regarding pollination and seed dispersal are extremely high.