Visualizing the pattern of variation using microsatellites within a Eucalyptus globulus forest on the island of Tasmania provided surprising insights into the complex nature of the fine-scale spatial genetic structure that resides in these forests. We used spatial autocorrelation and principal coordinate analysis to compare fine-scale genetic structure between juvenile and mature cohorts in a study area, 140 m in diameter, located within a typical, continuous E. globulus forest. In total, 115 juvenile and 168 mature individuals were genotyped with eight highly polymorphic microsatellite loci. There was no significant difference in the level of genetic diversity between cohorts. However, there were differences in the spatial distribution of the genetic variation. Autocorrelation analysis provided clear evidence for significant spatial genetic structure in the mature cohort and significant, but weaker, structure in the juvenile cohort. The spatial interpolation of principal coordinate axes, derived from ordination of the genetic distance matrix between individuals, revealed a spatially coherent family group which was evident in both cohorts. Direct comparison of the genetic structure within each cohort allowed visualization of a shift in the spatial distribution of genetic variation within the population of approximately 10 m. As the shift coincided with the direction of prevailing winds, it is hypothesized that this phenomenon is due to downwind dispersal of seeds and is indicative of the important role of prevailing winds in forcing eastward gene flow in these high-latitude forests.
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