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Spatial vs. temporal effects on demographic and genetic structures: the roles of dispersal, masting and differential mortality on patterns of recruitment in Fagus sylvatica


Sylvie Oddou-Muratorio, Fax: +33 490 135 959; E-mail:


Trees’ long lifespan, long-distance dispersal abilities and high year-to-year variability in fecundity are thought to have pervasive consequences for the demographic and genetic structure of recruited seedlings. However, we still lack experimental studies quantifying the respective roles of spatial processes such as restricted seed and pollen dispersal and temporal processes such as mast seeding on patterns of regeneration. Dynamics of European beech (Fagus sylvatica) seedling recruitment was monitored in three plots from 2004 to 2006. Six polymorphic microsatellite genetic markers were used to characterize seedlings and their potential parents in a 7.2-ha stand. These seedlings were shown to result from 12 years of recruitment, with one predominant year of seedling recruitment in 2002 and several years without significant recruitment. Using a spatially explicit mating model based on parentage assignment, short average dispersal distances for seed (δs = 10.9 m) and pollen (43.7 m < δp < 57.3 m) were found, but there was also a non-negligible immigration rate from outside the plot (ms = 20.5%; 71.6% < mp < 77.9%). Hierarchical analyses of seedling genetic structure showed that (i) most of the genetic variation was within plots; (ii) the genetic differentiation among seedling plots was significant (FST = 2.6%) while (iii) there was no effect of year-to-year seed rain variation on genetic structure. In addition, no significant effect of genetic structure on mortality was detected. The consequences of these results for the prediction of population dynamics at ecological timescales are discussed.