Pollen movement across central Singapore appears to be maintained, despite forest degradation, fragmentation and urbanisation

Noreen, A. M. E., Niissalo, M. A., Lum, S. K. Y., & Webb, E. L. (2016). Persistence of long-distance, insect-mediated pollen movement for a tropical canopy tree species in remnant forest patches in an urban landscape. Heredity, 5 October 2016 | doi:10.1038/hdy.2016.64

“Given the robust pollinators of Koompassia (e.g. Apis dorsata), pollen movement across central Singapore appears to be maintained even after forest degradation, fragmentation and urbanization.”

Abstract – As deforestation and urbanization continue at rapid rates in tropical regions, urban forest patches are essential repositories of biodiversity. However, almost nothing is known about gene flow of forest-dependent tree species in urban landscapes. In this study, we investigated gene flow in the insect-pollinated, wind-dispersed tropical tree Koompassia malaccensis in and among three remnant forest patches in the urbanized landscape of Singapore.

We genotyped the vast majority of adults (N = 179) and a large number of recruits (N = 2103) with 8 highly polymorphic microsatellite markers. Spatial genetic structure of the recruit and adult cohorts was significant, showing routine gene dispersal distances of ~ 100–400 m. Parentage analysis showed that 97% of recruits were within 100 m of their mother tree, and a high frequency of relatively short-distance pollen dispersal (median~ 143–187 m).

Despite routine seed and pollen dispersal distances of within a few hundred meters, interpatch gene flow occurred between all patches and was dominated by pollen movement: parentage analysis showed 76 pollen versus two seed interpatch dispersal events, and the seedling neighborhood model estimated ~ 1–6% seed immigration and ~ 21–46% pollen immigration rates, depending on patch. In addition, the smallest patch (containing five adult K. malaccensis trees) was entirely surrounded by 42.5 km of ‘impervious’ substrate, yet had the highest proportional pollen and seed immigration estimates of any patch.

Hence, contrary to our hypothesis, insect-mediated gene flow persisted across an urban landscape, and several of our results also parallel key findings from insect-pollinated canopy trees sampled in mixed agricultural–forest landscapes.

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