Studying fine-scale spatial genetic patterns across life stages is a powerful approach to identify ecological processes acting within tree populations. We investigated spatial genetic dynamics across five life stages in the insect-pollinated and vertebrate-dispersed tropical tree Prunus africana in Kakamega Forest, Kenya. Using six highly polymorphic microsatellite loci, we assessed genetic diversity and spatial genetic structure (SGS) from seed rain and seedlings, and different sapling stages to adult trees. We found significant SGS in all stages, potentially caused by limited seed dispersal and high recruitment rates in areas with high light availability. SGS decreased from seed and early seedling stages to older juvenile stages. Interestingly, SGS was stronger in adults than in late juveniles. The initial decrease in SGS was probably driven by both random and non-random thinning of offspring clusters during recruitment. Intergenerational variation in SGS could have been driven by variation in gene flow processes, overlapping generations in the adult stage or local selection. Our study shows that complex sequential processes during recruitment contribute to SGS of tree populations.
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