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Pollen dispersal of tropical trees (Dinizia excelsa: Fabaceae) by native insects and African honeybees in pristine and fragmented Amazonian rainforest


  • Christopher W. Dick,

    Corresponding author
    1. Biological Dynamics of Forest Fragments Project, Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia, C. P. 478, Manaus, AM-69011-970, Brazil,
    2. Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Unit 0948 APO AA 34002-0948, USA,
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  • Gabriela Etchelecu,

    1. Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Unit 0948 APO AA 34002-0948, USA,
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  • Frédéric Austerlitz

    1. Laboratoire de Genetique et d’Amelioration des Arbres Forestiers, INRA–Domaine de l’Hermitage, 69 Route d’Arcachon, Pierroton F-Cestas 33612, France
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C. Dick. §Present address: Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, unit 0948, APO AA 34002, USA. Fax: + 507–212–8791; E-mail:


Tropical rainforest trees typically occur in low population densities and rely on animals for cross-pollination. It is of conservation interest therefore to understand how rainforest fragmentation may alter the pollination and breeding structure of remnant trees. Previous studies of the Amazonian tree Dinizia excelsa (Fabaceae) found African honeybees (Apis mellifera scutellata) as the predominant pollinators of trees in highly disturbed habitats, transporting pollen up to 3.2 km between pasture trees. Here, using microsatellite genotypes of seed arrays, we compare outcrossing rates and pollen dispersal distances of (i) remnant D. excelsa in three large ranches, and (ii) a population in undisturbed forest in which African honeybees were absent. Self-fertilization was more frequent in the disturbed habitats (14%, n = 277 seeds from 12 mothers) than in undisturbed forest (10%, n = 295 seeds from 13 mothers). Pollen dispersal was extensive in all three ranches compared to undisturbed forest, however. Using a twogener analysis, we estimated a mean pollen dispersal distance of 1509 m in Colosso ranch, assuming an exponential dispersal function, and 212 m in undisturbed forest. The low effective density of D. excelsa in undisturbed forest (∼0.1 trees/ha) indicates that large areas of rainforest must be preserved to maintain minimum viable populations. Our results also suggest, however, that in highly disturbed habitats Apis mellifera may expand genetic neighbourhood areas, thereby linking fragmented and continuous forest populations.