Spatial structure and genetic diversity of two tropical tree species with contrasting breeding systems and different ploidy levels


Soon-Leong Lee. Fax: 603 62797878; E-mail:


Analyses of the spatial distribution pattern, spatial genetic structure and of genetic diversity were carried out in two tropical tree species with contrasting breeding systems and different ploidy levels using a 50-ha demographic plot in a lowland dipterocarp forest in Peninsular Malaysia. Shorea leprosula is a diploid and predominantly outcrossed species, whereas S. ovalis ssp. sericea is an autotetraploid species with apomictic mode of reproduction. Genetic diversity parameters estimated for S. leprosula using microsatellite were consistently higher than using allozyme. In comparisons with S. leprosula and other tropical tree species, S. ovalis ssp. sericea also displayed relatively high levels of genetic diversity. This might be explained by the lower pressure of genetic drift due to tetrasomic inheritance, and for autotetraploids each locus can accommodate up to four different alleles and this allows maintenance of more alleles at individual loci. The observed high levels of genetic diversity in S. ovalis ssp. sericea can also be due to a random retention of more heterogeneous individuals in the past, and the apomictic mode of reproduction might be an evolutionary strategy, which allows the species to maintain high levels of genetic diversity. The spatial distribution pattern analyses of both species showed significant levels of aggregation at small and medium but random distribution at the big diameter-class. The decrease in magnitude of spatial aggregation from small- to large-diameter classes might be due to compensatory mortality during recruitment and survival under competitive thinning process. Spatial genetic structure analyses for both species revealed significant spatial genetic structure for short distances in all the three diameter-classes. The magnitude of spatial genetic structure in both species was observed to be decreasing from smaller- to larger-diameter classes. The high spatial genetic structuring observed in S. ovalis ssp. sericea at the small-diameter class is due primarily to limited seed dispersal and apomictic mode of reproduction. The similar observation in S. leprosula, however, can be explained by limited seed and pollen dispersal, which supports further the fact that the species is pollinated by weak fliers, mainly of Thrips and Megalurothrips in the lowland dipterocarp forest.