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Comparing direct vs. indirect estimates of gene flow within a population of a scattered tree species


Sylvie Oddou-Muratorio, Fax: +33 490135 959; E-mail:


The comparison between historical estimates of gene flow, using variance in allelic frequencies, and contemporary estimates of gene flow, using parentage assignment, is expected to provide insights into ecological and evolutionary processes at work within and among populations. Genetic variation at six microsatellite loci was used to quantify genetic structure in the insect-pollinated, animal-dispersed, low-density tree Sorbus torminalis L. Crantz, and to derive historical estimates of gene flow. The neighbourhood size and root-mean-squared dispersal distance inferred from seedling genotypes (Nb = 70 individuals, σe = 417 m) were similar to those inferred from adult genotypes (Nb = 114 individuals, σe = 472 m). We also used parentage analyses and a neighbourhood model approach after an evaluation of the statistical properties of this method on simulated data. From our data, we estimated even contributions of seed- and pollen-mediated dispersal to the genetic composition of established seedlings, with both fat-tailed pollen and seed dispersal kernels, and slightly higher mean distance of pollen dispersal (248 m) as compared to seed dispersal (135 m). The resulting contemporary estimate of gene dispersal distance (σc = 211 m) was ∼twofold smaller than the historical estimates. Besides different assumptions and statistical nuances of both approaches, this discrepancy is likely to reflect a recent restriction in the scale of gene flow which requires manager's attention in a context of increasing forest fragmentation.