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Conservation Genetics of the Endemic Mexican Heliconia uxpanapensis in the Los Tuxtlas Tropical Rain Forest

Suárez-Montes, Pilar, Fornoni, Juan, Núñez-Farfán, Juan
Biotropica 2011 v.43 no.1 pp. 114-121
Heliconia, gene flow, genetic variation, habitat fragmentation, inbreeding, microsatellite repeats, outcrossing, tropical rain forests, variance, Mexico
Heliconia uxpanapensis (Heliconiaceae) is an outcrossing endemic herb that grows within continuous and fragmented areas of the tropical rain forest of southeast Veracrúz (México). The genetic diversity, population differentiation, and genetic structure of seven populations of the studied species were assessed using inter-simple sequence repeat) markers. Population differentiation was moderately high (FST range: 0.18-0.22) and indirect estimates of gene flow were rather low (Nm=0.65-0.83). Analysis of molecular variance indicated that the populations explained 22.2 percent of the variation, while individuals within the populations accounted for 77.8 percent. The similar and high level of genetic diversity found within populations of the continuous and fragmented forest suggests that H. uxpanapensis has not suffered yet the expected negative effect of fragmentation. Genetic structure analyses indicated the presence of fewer genetic clusters (K=4) than populations (N=7). Three of the four fragmented forest populations were assigned each to one of the clusters found within the continuous forest, suggesting the absence of a negative fragmentation effect on the amount and distribution of genetic variation. Given the significant genetic structure combined with high genetic diversity and low levels of gene flow, theoretical simulations indicated that H. uxpanapensis might be highly susceptible to changes in the mating system, which promotes inbreeding within fragmented populations. Thus, future conservation efforts in this species should be directed to ensure that levels of gene flow among populations are sufficient to prevent an increment in the magnitude of inbreeding within fragments. Abstract in Spanish is available at