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A genetic approach for simulating persistence of reintroduced tree species populations in restored forests

Sujii, Patricia S., Nagai, Micael E., Zucchi, Maria I., Brancalion, Pedro H.S., James, Patrick M.A.
Ecological modelling 2019 v.403 pp. 35-43
Centrolobium, case studies, genetic drift, genetic variation, inbreeding depression, landscapes, planning, population size, population viability, probability, provenance, simulation models, temperate forests, trees, tropical plants, Brazil
Tree populations in regions undergoing restoration are generally made up of few individuals, isolated from neighboring populations, and are found within a matrix of inhospitable human-modified landscapes. Resulting negative genetic consequences such as inbreeding depression and genetic drift require mitigation strategies to maintain sufficient genetic diversity in restoration areas. Such strategies often involve seed sampling from many source trees with different provenances. However, the efficacy of these approaches has not been validated. We present an individual-based spatial simulation model to evaluate the effects of: 1) differing levels of initial genetic diversity; and 2) different area sizes on short (tens of years) and mid-term (hundreds of years) restored population viability. We demonstrate this approach and the use of our model with case study of Centrolobium tomentosum, a tropical tree species widely used in restoration projects in the Atlantic Forest of Brazil. Our model and analysis framework can be applied in studies of tree species with different characteristics, from tropical and temperate forests, to assess population persistence in restoration sites as a function of genetic diversity and population size. This knowledge can support planning of both restoration projects and management actions, increasing the probability of restoration success while also reducing associated costs.