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Forests 2017, 8(9), 312; https://doi.org/10.3390/f8090312

Effective Seed Dispersal and Fecundity Variation in a Small and Marginal Population of Pinus pinaster Ait. Growing in a Harsh Environment: Implications for Conservation of Forest Genetic Resources

1
Departamento de Sistemas y Recursos Naturales, Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, Ciudad Universitaria s/n, 28040 Madrid, Spain
2
Department of Biology, University of Utah, 257 S 1400 E Salt Lake, UT 84112, USA
3
Forest Research Institute, Greek Agricultural Organization-Dimitra, 57006 Vassilika-Thessaloniki, Greece
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 3 July 2017 / Revised: 4 August 2017 / Accepted: 23 August 2017 / Published: 26 August 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Genetics and Genomics of Forest Trees)
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Abstract

Small-size, relict and marginal tree-species populations are a priority for conservation of forest genetic resources. In-situ conservation of these populations relies on adequate forest management planning based on knowledge and understanding of both ecological (i.e., recruitment or dispersal dynamics) and population-genetic processes (i.e., female reproductive success, gene flow or inbreeding). Here, we estimate the fecundity (or female reproductive success) of adult trees (i.e., the number of successfully established offspring/adult tree) and the effective dispersal distance distribution in the pine forest of Fuencaliente (southern Spain), a small-sized, marginal and relict population of maritime pine growing on a steep, craggy hill with just 312 reproductively active individuals. Previous studies have shown the population to present reduced allelic richness and suffer from genetic introgression from nearby exotic plantations of unknown origin. Between 2003 and 2004, we surveyed all adults and recruits and we measured several adult-specific covariates, including the number of cones of all adults. The population was found to be distributed into two nuclei with 268 (Stand 1) and 44 adults (Stand 2). We used inverse modeling to adjust several dispersal-and-fecundity models including a model with random variation in fecundity among adults (Unrestricted Fecundity or UF model). Results show that: (i) the average fecundity is 2.5–3.2 recruits/adult; (ii) the mean effective dispersal distance is restricted to 13–24 m and (iii) fecundity is most likely controlled by the spatial location of adult trees in Stand ,1 but it should be considered randomly distributed in Stand 2 (in this stand five adults mothered 80% of recruits). We conclude that the low fecundity in Stand 1 and the unequal fecundity in Stand 2 may decrease the population genetic diversity and lead to lower effective population size while the low average dispersal distance may reduce the probability of this population expanding to adjacent areas. In light of the results, we define the management priorities for in-situ conservation of this population. View Full-Text
Keywords: dispersal kernel; forest management; regeneration; seed shadow model dispersal kernel; forest management; regeneration; seed shadow model
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Charco, J.; Venturas, M.; Gil, L.; Nanos, N. Effective Seed Dispersal and Fecundity Variation in a Small and Marginal Population of Pinus pinaster Ait. Growing in a Harsh Environment: Implications for Conservation of Forest Genetic Resources. Forests 2017, 8, 312.

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