skip to main content

Title: Fine‐scale habitat heterogeneity and vole runways influence seed dispersal in Plagiobothrys nothofulvus

Seed dispersal allows plants to colonize new sites and contributes to gene flow among populations. Despite its fundamental importance to ecological and evolutionary processes, our understanding of seed dispersal is limited due to the difficulty of directly observing dispersal events. This is particularly true for the majority of plant species that are considered to have gravity as their primary dispersal mechanism. The potential for long‐distance movement of gravity‐dispersed seeds by secondary dispersal vectors is rarely evaluated.


We employ whole‐genome assays of maternally inherited cpDNAinPlagiobothrys nothofulvusto resolve patterns of genetic variation due to effective (realized) seed dispersal within a 16 hectare prairie that is characterized by a mosaic of habitat types. We evaluate the effects of microgeographic landscape features extracted from micro‐UAVaerial surveys on patterns of seed dispersal using landscape genetics methods.


We found evidence of high resistance to seed‐mediated gene flow (effective dispersal) within patches ofPlagiobothrys nothofulvus, and strong genetic structure over distances of less than 20 m. Geographic distance was a poor predictor of dispersal distance, while landscape features had stronger influences on patterns of dispersal (distance and direction of seed movement). Patterns of dispersal were best predicted by the combined distribution of flower patches, habitat type, and the network of vole runways, with the latter explaining the largest proportion of variation in the model.


Our results suggest that primary dispersal occurs mostly within microhabitats and infrequent secondary dispersal may occur over longer distances due to the activity of small mammals and other vertebrates.

more » « less
Author(s) / Creator(s):
 ;  ;  ;  ;  
Publisher / Repository:
Wiley Blackwell (John Wiley & Sons)
Date Published:
Journal Name:
American Journal of Botany
Page Range / eLocation ID:
p. 413-422
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Premise

    Conversion of primary forests to pastures is a major cause of habitat fragmentation in the tropics. Fragmentation is expected to impede gene flow for many plant species that are restricted to remaining forest fragments. Epiphytes may be especially vulnerable to this effect of forest fragmentation because they depend on host trees. However, trees that remain in pastures may enhance connectivity across the landscape for epiphyte species that can thrive on such trees. To investigate this possibility, we studied the genetic structures of two such species on isolated pasture trees and surrounding forest, in relation to their local abundances in different habitat types and aspects of their reproductive biology including pollen and seed dispersal agents, and looked for evidence of increased or diminished gene flow.


    We used microsatellite markers to assess geographic patterns of genetic diversity and differentiation in two epiphytic bromeliads,Catopsis nitidaandWerauhia tonduziana,in the Monteverde region of Costa Rica.


    About 85% of theFSTvalue forCatopsis nitidawas found among pastures within regions, while forWeruahia tonduziana,about 80% of theFSTvalue was contributed by differences between regions, indicating much more gene flow within regions, relative toC. nitida.


    Although there was substantial genetic differentiation among epiphyte populations, those on isolated pasture trees were not substantially less diverse than those in adjacent forests, suggesting that pasture trees may serve as “stepping stones” that help these species maintain their genetic connectedness and diversity at larger geographic scales.

    more » « less
  2. Abstract

    Human commensal species such as rodent pests are often widely distributed across cities and threaten both infrastructure and public health. Spatially explicit population genomic methods provide insights into movements for cryptic pests that drive evolutionary connectivity across multiple spatial scales. We examined spatial patterns of neutral genomewide variation in brown rats (Rattus norvegicus) across Manhattan, New York City (NYC), using 262 samples and 61,401SNPs to understand (i) relatedness among nearby individuals and the extent of spatial genetic structure in a discrete urban landscape; (ii) the geographic origin ofNYCrats, using a large, previously published data set of global rat genotypes; and (iii) heterogeneity in gene flow across the city, particularly deviations from isolation by distance. We found that rats separated by ≤200 m exhibit strong spatial autocorrelation (r = .3,p = .001) and the effects of localized genetic drift extend to a range of 1,400 m. Across Manhattan, rats exhibited a homogeneous population origin from rats that likely invaded from Great Britain. While traditional approaches identified a single evolutionary cluster with clinal structure across Manhattan, recently developed methods (e.g., fineSTRUCTURE,sPCA,EEMS) provided evidence of reduced dispersal across the island's less residential Midtown region resulting in fine‐scale genetic structuring (FST = 0.01) and two evolutionary clusters (Uptown and Downtown Manhattan). Thus, while some urban populations of human commensals may appear to be continuously distributed, landscape heterogeneity within cities can drive differences in habitat quality and dispersal, with implications for the spatial distribution of genomic variation, population management and the study of widely distributed pests.

    more » « less
  3. Abstract Aim

    To test whether or not fungal communities associated with the widespread seagrass,Syringodium isoetifoliumcan be differentiated on either side of Wallace's line, a boundary line separating Asian and Australasian fauna. Additionally, we examine whether host multilocus genotype predicts fungal community composition.


    A total of 77 samples were collected from 14 sampling sites spanning the Indonesian archipelago.


    We sequenced the fungalITS1 gene using Illumia MiSeq technology and used a clustering‐free Divisive Amplicon Denoising Algorithm to infer ribosomal sequence variants. Data were analysed via non‐metric multidimensional scaling, Mantel tests and permutational multivariate analysis of variance. Binary and quantitative null models were used to determine whether results significantly deviated from random. Host genotype was determined by genotyping at 18 microsatellite loci and standard genetic analysis was performed in the R packageAPE.


    Significant differences in fungal community composition were detected on either side of Wallace's line (= <.001R2 = .040). A significant distance decay of similarity pattern was observed between ribosomal sequence variants and geographical distance (= .001R2 = .227) and several fungal ribosomal sequence variants were significantly associated with sampling sites found either east or west of Wallace's line.

    Main conclusions

    Fungi are generally considered to have excellent dispersal potentials and marine fungi have the potential to disperse far and wide in an environment that has no obvious barriers to dispersal. Despite this assumed excellent dispersal potential, we show that fungal communities on either side of Wallace's line are significantly different from one another. We speculate that limited dispersal and differences in habitat type are responsible for the observed pattern. Work examining biogeographical patterns in marine fungi is still in its infancy and further research is required to fully understand marine fungal biogeography.

    more » « less
  4. Abstract

    The distribution of wind‐dispersed seeds around a parent tree depends on diaspore and tree traits, as well as wind conditions and surrounding vegetation. This study of a neotropical canopy tree,Platypodium elegans,explored the extent to which parental variation in diaspore and tree traits explained (1) rate of diaspore descent in still air, (2) distributions of diaspores dispersed from a 40‐m tower in the forest, and (3) natural diaspore distributions around the parent tree. The geometric mean rate of descent in still air among 20 parents was highly correlated with geometric mean wing loading1/2(r = 0.84). However, diaspore traits and rate of descent predicted less variation in dispersal distance from the tower, although descent rate−1consistently correlated with dispersal distance. Measured seed shadows, particularly their distribution edges, differed significantly among six parents (DBHrange 62–181 cm) and were best fit by six separate anisotropic dispersal kernels and surveyed fecundities. Measured rate of descent and tree traits, combined in a mechanistic seed dispersal model, did not significantly explain variation among parents in natural seed dispersal distances, perhaps due to the limited power to detect effects with only six trees. Seedling and sapling distributions were at a greater mean distance from the parents than seed distributions; saplings were heavily concentrated at far distances. Variation among parents in the distribution tails so critical for recruitment could not be explained by measured diaspore or tree traits with this sample size, and may be determined more by wind patterns and the timing of abscission in relation to wind conditions. Studies of wind dispersal need to devote greater field efforts at recording the “rare” dispersal events that contribute to far dispersal distances, following their consequences, and in understanding the mechanisms that generate them.

    more » « less
  5. Abstract

    Lemurs are among the world's most threatened mammals. The critically endangered black‐and‐white ruffed lemur (Varecia variegata), in particular, has recently experienced rapid population declines due to habitat loss, ecological sensitivities to habitat degradation, and extensive human hunting pressure. Despite this, a recent study indicates that ruffed lemurs retain among the highest levels of genetic diversity for primates. Identifying how this diversity is apportioned and whether gene flow is maintained among remnant populations will help to diagnose and target conservation priorities. We sampled 209 individuals from 19 sites throughout the remainingV. variegatarange. We used 10 polymorphic microsatellite loci and ~550 bp of mtDNAsequence data to evaluate genetic structure and population dynamics, including dispersal patterns and recent population declines. Bayesian cluster analyses identified two distinct genetic clusters, which optimally partitioned data into populations occurring on either side of theMangoro River. Localities north of the Mangoro were characterized by greater genetic diversity, greater gene flow (lower genetic differentiation) and higher mtDNAhaplotype and nucleotide diversity than those in the south. Despite this, genetic differentiation across all sites was high, as indicated by high averageFST(0.247) and ΦST(0.544), and followed a pattern of isolation‐by‐distance. We use these results to suggest future conservation strategies that include an effort to maintain genetic diversity in the north and restore connectivity in the south. We also note the discordance between patterns of genetic differentiation and current subspecies taxonomy, and encourage a re‐evaluation of conservation management units moving forward.

    more » « less