The influence of seed dispersal mechanisms on the genetic structure of tropical tree populations
Seed dispersal mechanisms should have a direct impact on the genetic structure of populations. Species whose seeds are dispersed near the maternal plant (e.g. gravity or wind dispersal) or species whose seeds are deposited in clumps or patches should have more fine-scale genetic structure than species whose seeds are dispersed singly by mobile animals. Furthermore, due to the overlap of seed shadows, species with high adult densities should have less genetic structure than species with lower densities. Allozyme analyses of three tropical tree species belonging to the moist tropical forest of Barro Colorado Island, Republic of Panama, were used to describe variation in the scale and intensity of genetic structure within their populations. The genetic structure of seedlings and immature trees in the low-density, wind-dispersed species (Platypodium elegans) was the coarsest and strongest whereas genetic structure in a population of Swartzia simplex var. ochnacea (high density, bird-dispersed) was both the finest and the weakest. The genetic structure of Alseis blackiana, a high-density, wind-dispersed species was intermediate in both degree and scale. In P. elegans and A. blackiana, which had ‘J’ shaped size distributions, the significant genetic structure seen in the smaller and intermediate diameter classes disappeared in the largest diameter class. The loss of genetic structure was not observed in S. simplex, a species with a more even size distribution.