Limited Pollen Dispersal Contributes to Population Genetic Structure but Not Local Adaptation in Quercus oleoides Forests of Costa RicaReport as inadecuate

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Quercus oleoides Cham. and Schlect., tropical live oak, is a species of conservation importance in its southern range limit of northwestern Costa Rica. It occurs in high-density stands across a fragmented landscape spanning a contrasting elevation and precipitation gradient. We examined genetic diversity and spatial genetic structure in this geographically isolated and genetically distinct population. We characterized population genetic diversity at 11 nuclear microsatellite loci in 260 individuals from 13 sites. We monitored flowering time at 10 sites, and characterized the local environment in order to compare observed spatial genetic structure to hypotheses of isolation-by-distance and isolation-by-environment. Finally, we quantified pollen dispersal distances and tested for local adaptation through a reciprocal transplant experiment in order to experimentally address these hypotheses.


High genetic diversity is maintained in the population and the genetic variation is significantly structured among sampled sites. We identified 5 distinct genetic clusters and average pollen dispersal predominately occurred over short distances. Differences among sites in flowering phenology and environmental factors, however, were not strictly associated with genetic differentiation. Growth and survival of upland and lowland progeny in their native and foreign environments was expected to exhibit evidence of local adaptation due to the more extreme dry season in the lowlands. Seedlings planted in the lowland garden experienced much higher mortality than seedlings in the upland garden, but we did not identify evidence for local adaptation.


Overall, this study indicates that the Costa Rican Q. oleoides population has a rich population genetic history. Despite environmental heterogeneity and habitat fragmentation, isolation-by-distance and isolation-by-environment alone do not explain spatial genetic structure. These results add to studies of genetic structure by examining a common, tropical tree over multiple habitats and provide information for managers of a successional forest in a protected area.

Author: Nicholas John Deacon , Jeannine Cavender-Bares



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