Extensive pollen‐mediated gene flow across intensively managed landscapes in an insect‐pollinated shrub native to semiarid habitats

Ana González-Robles, Cristina Garcia , Teresa Salido, Antonio J. Manzaneda, Pedro J Rey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Our knowledge of the impact of landscape fragmentation on gene flow patterns is mainly drawn from tropical and temperate ecosystems, where landscape features, such as the distance of a tree to the forest edge, drive connectivity and mating patterns. Yet, the structure of arid and semiarid plant communities – with open canopies and a scattered distribution of trees – differs greatly from those that are well-characterized in the literature. As a result, we ignore whether the documented consequences of landscape fragmentation on plant mating and gene flow patterns also hold for native plant communities in arid and semiarid regions. We investigated the relative contribution of plant traits, pollinator activity, and individual neighbourhood in explaining variation in mating and gene flow patterns of an insect-pollinated semiarid arborescent shrub, Ziziphus lotus, at three sites embedded in highly altered agriculture landscapes. We used 14 SSRs, seed paternity analyses, and individual mixed effect mating models (MEMMi) to estimate the individual mating variables and the pollen dispersal kernel at each site. Individual spatial location, flower density, and floral visitation rate explained most of the variation of mating variables. Unexpectedly, individual correlated paternity was very low and shrubs surrounded by the most degraded matrix exhibited an increased fraction of pollen immigration and a high effective number of pollen donors per mother shrub. Overall, our results reveal that an active pollinator assemblage ensures highly efficient mating, and maintains pollen-mediated gene flow and notable connectivity levels, even in highly altered landscapes, potentially halting genetic isolation within and between distant sites.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3408-3421
Number of pages14
JournalMolecular Ecology
Issue number14
Early online date9 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021

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