Demographic spatial genetic structure of the Neotropical tree, Jacaranda copaia


Andy Jones, Fax: 011-507-212-8791; E-mail:


We used genotypes from six microsatellite loci and demographic data from a large mapped forest plot to study changes in spatial genetic structure across demographic stages, from seed rain to seedlings, juveniles, and adult diameter classes in the Neotropical tree, Jacaranda copaia. In pairwise comparisons of genetic differentiation among demographic classes, only seedlings were significantly differentiated from the other diameter classes; FST values ranged from 0.006 to 0.009. Furthermore, only seedlings showed homozygote excess suggesting biparental inbreeding in the large diameter reproductive adults. We found very low levels of relatedness in the first distance class of trees, 1–26 cm diameter (Fij = 0.011). However, there was a 5- to 10-fold rise in relatedness in the smallest distance class, from the smallest to the largest tree diameter classes (Fij = 0.110 for individuals > 56 cm diameter). A variety of non-mutually exclusive mechanisms have been invoked perviously to explain such a pattern, including natural selection, history, or nonequilibrium population dynamics. The long-term demographic data available for this species allow us to evaluate these mechanisms. Jacaranda is a fast-growing, light-demanding species with low recruitment rates and high mortality rates in the smaller diameter classes. It successfully regenerates only in large light gaps, which occur infrequently and stochastically in space and time. These factors contribute to the nonequilibrium population dynamics and observed low genetic structure in the small size classes. We conclude that the pattern of spatial genetic transitions in Jacaranda is consistent with overlapping related generations and strong but infrequent periods of high recruitment, followed by long periods of population decline.