Forest fragmentation genetics in a formerly widespread island endemic tree: Vateriopsis seychellarum (Dipterocarpaceae)


Aline Finger, Fax: +41 44 632 10 33; E-mail:


Habitat fragmentation and changed land use have seriously reduced population size in many tropical forest tree species. Formerly widespread species with limited gene flow may be particularly vulnerable to the negative genetic effects of forest fragmentation and small population size. Vateriopsis seychellarum (Dipterocarpaceae) is a formerly widespread canopy tree of the Seychelles, but is now reduced to 132 adult individuals distributed in eleven sites. Using ten microsatellite loci, a genetic inventory of all adult trees and a sample of 317 progeny, we demonstrate that despite its restricted range, overall genetic diversity was relatively high (HE: 0.56). The juvenile cohort, however, had significantly lower allelic richness (adults RS: 3.91; juveniles RS: 2.83) and observed heterozygosity than adult trees (adults HO: 0.62; juveniles HO: 0.48). Rare alleles were fewer and kinship between individuals was stronger in juveniles. Significant fine-scale spatial genetic structure was observed in remnant adults, and parentage analysis indicated that more than 90% of sampled progeny disperse <25 m and pollen dispersed <50 m. The molecular data confirmed that two populations were derived entirely from self-fertilized offspring from a single surviving mother tree. These populations produce viable offspring. Despite this extreme genetic bottleneck, self-compatibility may provide V. seychellarum with some resistance to the genetic consequences of habitat fragmentation, at least in the short term. We discuss our findings in the context of other rare and threatened dipterocarp species which are vulnerable to miss-management of genetic resources and population fragmentation.