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High Genetic Diversity in a Potentially Vulnerable Tropical Tree Species Despite Extreme Habitat Loss
Abstract and Figures
Over the last 150 years, Singapore's primary forest has been reduced to less than 0.2% of its previous area, resulting in extinctions of native flora and fauna. Remaining species may be threatened by genetic erosion and inbreeding. We surveyed >95% of the remaining primary forest in Singapore and used eight highly polymorphic microsatellite loci to assess genetic diversity indices of 179 adults (>30 cm stem diameter), 193 saplings (>1 yr), and 1,822 seedlings (<1 yr) of the canopy tree Koompassia malaccensis (Fabaceae). We tested hypotheses relevant to the genetic consequences of habitat loss: (1) that the K. malaccensis population in Singapore experienced a genetic bottleneck and a reduction in effective population size, and (2) K. malaccensis recruits would exhibit genetic erosion and inbreeding compared to adults. Contrary to expectations, we detected neither a population bottleneck nor a reduction in effective population size, and high genetic diversity in all age classes. Genetic diversity indices among age classes were not significantly different: we detected overall high expected heterozygosity (He = 0.843-0.854), high allelic richness (R = 16.7-19.5), low inbreeding co-efficients (FIS = 0.013-0.076), and a large proportion (30.1%) of rare alleles (i.e. frequency <1%). However, spatial genetic structure (SGS) analyses showed significant differences between the adults and the recruits. We detected significantly greater SGS intensity, as well as higher relatedness in the 0-10 m distance class, for seedlings and saplings compared to the adults. Demographic factors for this population (i.e. <200 adult trees) are a cause for concern, as rare alleles could be lost due to stochastic factors. The high outcrossing rate (tm = 0.961), calculated from seedlings, may be instrumental in maintaining genetic diversity and suggests that pollination by highly mobile bee species in the genus Apis may provide resilience to acute habitat loss.
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