Does long-distance pollen dispersal preclude inbreeding in tropical trees? Fragmentation genetics of Dysoxylum malabaricum in an agro-forest landscape


Correspondence: Sascha Ismail, Fax: +41 44 632 10 33; E-mail:


Tropical trees often display long-distance pollen dispersal, even in highly fragmented landscapes. Understanding how patterns of spatial isolation influence pollen dispersal and interact with background patterns of fine-scale spatial genetic structure (FSGS) is critical for evaluating the genetic consequences of habitat fragmentation. In the endangered tropical timber tree Dysoxylum malabaricum (Meliaceae), we apply eleven microsatellite markers with paternity and parentage analysis to directly estimate historic gene flow and contemporary pollen dispersal across a large area (216 km2) in a highly fragmented agro-forest landscape. A comparison of genetic diversity and genetic structure in adult and juvenile life stages indicates an increase in differentiation and FSGS over time. Paternity analysis and parentage analysis demonstrate high genetic connectivity across the landscape by pollen dispersal. A comparison between mother trees in forest patches with low and high densities of adult trees shows that the frequency of short-distance mating increases, as does average kinship among mates in low-density stands. This indicates that there are potentially negative genetic consequences of low population density associated with forest fragmentation. Single isolated trees, in contrast, frequently receive heterogeneous pollen from distances exceeding 5 km. We discuss the processes leading to the observed patterns of pollen dispersal and the implications of this for conservation management of D. malabaricum and tropical trees more generally.