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WP 2 - Objectives

General objective

Compare fragmented forests in different states of disturbance applying species diversity measures, populations’ structure and dynamics and analysis of genetic variation in palm communities, in order to evaluate the resilience of these systems and the limits of their functioning.


Specific objectives:

1. Explore spatial genetic structure of selected palms species with different harvest pressure, ecological preferences and matting systems.


The species selected for this objective encompass all major biomes of the region studied and have a diversity of harvest pressure and matting systems: Mauritia flexuosa (Amazon lowland swamps, dioecious); Oenocarpus bataua (Amazon lowlands, monoecious), Euterpe precatoria (Amazonian, sub-Andean and coastal Pacific, monoecious); Prestoea acuminata (sub-Andean, monoecious), Phytelephas aequatorialis (coastal Pacific, dioecious), Ceroxylon spp. (Andean, dioecious). Data on spatial genetic structure of these species have been gathered at the regional scale (Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia for Oenocarpus, Euterpe and Ceroxylon) or at a more restricted scale in Ecuador (Mauritia, Phytelephas, Prestoea). These data have been generated as part of 8 student theses (1 PhD, 2 masters and 5 licenciaturas) and are now being prepared for publication.


2. Explore species delimitation in species complexes.


Two cases study have been considered for this objective: the complex of Euterpe precatoria and the complex of Astrocaryum sect. huicungo. Euterpe precatoria has been subdivided in two varieties. The molecular genetic studies conducted confirm that there is a major split between the Andean-Pacific E. precatoria var. longevaginata and the Amazon E. precatoria var. precatoria. Unexpectedly, a strong genetic structure has additionally been discovered in var. precatoria, with an Amazonian and a sub-Andean ecotypes largely distributed but little overlapping in western Amazonia. In Astrocaryum sect. huicungo, all taxa, although closely related, have distinct, and essentially contiguous, non-overlapping distributions. An intensive field work allowed to produce a detailed map of the distribution of all the species in western Amazonia (Kahn et al. 2011), and corresponding phylogeographic genetic data are now prepared for publication.


3. Evaluate impact of anthropogenic activities on dynamic and long-term conservation of genetic diversity.


For this objective, a focus genus, Ceroxylon, key stone palms of Andean cloud forests, has been extensively studied. It includes several studies in Ecuador on one species, Ceroxylon echinulatum (4 articles published so far) and a PhD thesis (Sanin 2013) spanning several species at the regional level (Bolivia to Venezuela), with articles now prepared for publication or in press.


With respect to the original objectives, it is to be noted that WP2 have been developed associating closely genetics and population ecology in order to understand and predict responses of the palm populations to ecosystem changes and determine drivers and indicators of resilience and regime shift. Such indicators will be synthesized in the forthcoming D13 book.



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