The diversity of genetic resources is essential to cope with environmental changes. However, despite forests play a crucial role in mitigating changes, genetic knowledge has scarcely been used for forest conservation. In this study, we used nuclear microsatellites to understand the patterns of genetic diversity and population genetic structure in Ocotea rotundata van der Werff (Lauraceae), an endemic Ecuadorian tree, highly affected by habitat changes and fragmentation. Our results show high levels of genetic diversity, except in one population. The level of genetic differentiation between populations was low and genetic clusters showed no apparent spatial pattern. In fact, a high degree of genetic admixture was found between most populations. Migration rates were asymmetric but overall high, except in one population, where outgoing gene dispersal was limited. Nevertheless, allelic fixation values suggested a general deficit in heterozygotes, probably due to an increase in the levels of mating between close relatives. Although long-lived organisms, such as trees, can often accumulate a surprising amount of genetic diversity, the results found here could be an early sign of a decline in the diversity of O. rotundata. These findings provide baseline information on genetic resources to support future restoration programs to mitigate the impacts of changes in O. rotundata populations.
- genetic diversity
- neotropical forests