Multiple factors can influence gene dispersal via seeds in human modified landscapes. Little is known, however, about how the interplay among these factors generates the observed patterns. The overarching aim of this project is to understand how the genetic diversity in the seed rain of a bird-dispersed palm (Euterpe edulis) varies within and among forest remnants. Multiple competing hypotheses will be tested to evaluate the contribution of local and landscape factors on seed and gene dispersal. Seeds were collected using seed traps in 10 landscapes along a gradient of forest cover in the Atlantic forest. The multilocus microsatellite genotypes will be analyzed using metrics of genetic diversity: Alpha (the genetic diversity of maternal genotypes in each seed deposition site); Gamma (the total diversity of maternal genotypes in a forested area); and Delta (the divergence of maternal progenies between seed deposition sites). The number of seeds and kinship between seeds in each seed deposition site will be also analyzed. Two groups of microhabitat variables were collected in the field to model genetic diversity at the local scale: (1) characteristics that affect frugivory and (2) structural characteristics that influence the movement and space use by frugivorous birds. Two groups of landscape features were obtained to model genetic diversity at the landscape scale: (1) landscape structural features and (2) characteristics of the E. edulis populations and seed disperser assemblages. The results will foster our understanding about the mechanisms that alter the seed and gene dispersal processes in altered environments.
News published in Agência FAPESP Newsletter about the scholarship: