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See detailMiocene Diversification in the Savannahs Precedes Tetraploid Rainforest Radiation in the African Tree Genus Afzelia (Detarioideae, Fabaceae)
Donkpegan, Armel S. L.; Doucet, Jean-Louis ULiege; Hardy, Olivier J. et al

in Frontiers in Plant Science (2020), 11(798),

The dating of diversification events, including transitions between biomes, is key to elucidate the processes that underlie the assembly and evolution of tropical biodiversity. Afzelia is a widespread ... [more ▼]

The dating of diversification events, including transitions between biomes, is key to elucidate the processes that underlie the assembly and evolution of tropical biodiversity. Afzelia is a widespread genus of tropical trees, threatened by exploitation for its valuable timber, that presents an interesting system to investigate diversification events in Africa. Africa hosts diploid Afzelia species in the savannahs north and south of the Guineo-Congolian rainforest and autotetraploid species confined to the rainforest. Species delimitation and phylogenetic relationships among the diploid and tetraploid species remained unresolved in previous studies using small amounts of DNA sequence data. We used genotyping-by-sequencing in the five widespread Afzelia species in Africa, the savannah species A. africana and A. quanzensis and the rainforest species A. bipindensis, A. pachyloba, and A. bella. Maximum likelihood and coalescent approaches resolved all species as monophyletic and placed the savannah and rainforest taxa into two separate clades corresponding to contrasted ploidy levels. Our data are thus compatible with a single biome shift in Afzelia in Africa, although we were unable to conclude on its direction. SNAPP calibrated species trees show that the savannah diploids started to diversify early, at 12 (9.09–14.89) Ma, which contrasts with a recent and rapid diversification of the rainforest tetraploid clade, starting at 4.22 (3.12 – 5.36) Ma. This finding of older diversification in a tropical savannah clade vs. its sister rainforest clade is exceptional; it stands in opposition to the predominant observation of young ages for savannahs lineages in tropical regions during the relatively recent expansion of the savannah biome. [less ▲]

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See detailPast human disturbances and soil fertility both influence the distribution of light-demanding tree species in a Central African tropical forest
Vleminckx, Jason; Bauman, David; Demanet, Marine et al

in Journal of Vegetation Science (2020), 31

Questions: In vast areas of Central African forests, the upper canopy is presently dominated by light-demanding tree species. Here, we confront three hypotheses to explain this dominance: (a) these ... [more ▼]

Questions: In vast areas of Central African forests, the upper canopy is presently dominated by light-demanding tree species. Here, we confront three hypotheses to explain this dominance: (a) these species have expanded their distribution because of widespread past slash-and-burn activities, as suggested by important charcoal amounts recorded in the soils of the region; (b) their abundance is rather explained by soil properties, as this guild establishes preferentially on favourable physico-chemical conditions for rapid growth; (c) soil properties have been substantially influenced by past human disturbances and those two effects cannot be disentangled. Location: Pallisco-CIFM logging concession, southeastern Cameroon (300,000 ha). Methods: We quantified soil charcoal abundance and measured ten soil variables at the basis of 60 target trees that belonged to a list of three long-living pioneer lightdemanding (LLP) and four shade-bearer (SB) species. We identified all stems with a diameter at breast height (DBH) ≥ 20 cm within a distance of 15 m around each target tree. Species were characterised by their wood-specific gravity (WSG), which reflected their light requirement. Multiple regression models were used to quantify and test the relative effects of charcoal abundance and soil variables on the mean WSG of the 60 tree communities, as well as the abundance of three guilds: LLP, SB, and non-pioneer light demanders (NPLD). Results: The mean WSG was the only response variable significantly explained by soil variables and charcoal abundance combined. It was significantly negatively associated with soil calcium and Mg content and with charcoal abundance, with soil and charcoal influencing the mean WSG independently. Conclusion: Our study provides evidence that past human disturbances and soil fertility have independently promoted the establishment of light-demanding species in western Central African forests, thereby shedding light on tree community assembly rules in these ecosystems which remain considerably understudied compared to the tropical forests of other continents. [less ▲]

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See detailRevisiting the North-South genetic discontinuity in Central African tree populations: the case of the low-density tree species Baillonella toxisperma
Ndiade-Bourobou, Dyana; Daïnou, Kasso ULiege; Hardy, Olivier J. et al

in Tree Genetics and Genomes (2020), 16(15),

How the Central African rain forests have been affected by climatic fluctuations of the Quaternary remains debated. Phylogeographical studies have shown that tree species from western Central Africa often ... [more ▼]

How the Central African rain forests have been affected by climatic fluctuations of the Quaternary remains debated. Phylogeographical studies have shown that tree species from western Central Africa often display spatially congruent genetic discontinuities, supporting the hypothesis that the forest was previously fragmented. Extensive seed dispersal is expected to accelerate the admixture between gene pools but most of the species studied so far have presumably limited seed dispersal abilities. Here, we genotyped 15 nuclear and three plastid microsatellite markers in a low-density Central African tree species with long-distance seed dispersal: Baillonella toxisperma (Sapotaceae). While plastid markers revealed a weak structure in Cameroon, nuclear markers highlighted three genetic clusters: two distributed in Cameroon and separating Atlantic coastal forests from the inland forests, and one cluster occurring in Gabon. Substantial genetic differentiation with a phylogeographical signal was detected only between Cameroonian and Gabonese populations, suggesting two major genetic clusters located approximately North and South of the equatorial climatic hinge. Genetic differentiation was very low between the clusters within Cameroon. This pattern could be partially explained by the climate niche distribution modelling applied on the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) which predicts a unique remnant population per country. The deep North-South differentiation in a species with long-distance seed dispersal supports the hypothesis that Central African rain forests have been fragmented at the height of the equator during a substantial part of the Quaternary. [less ▲]

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See detailPopulation genomics of the widespread African savannah trees Afzelia africana and Afzelia quanzensis reveals no significant past fragmentation of their distribution ranges
Donkpegan, Armel S. L. ULiege; Piñeiro, Rosalía; Heuertz, Myriam et al

in American Journal of Botany (2020), 107(3), 498-509

PREMISE: Few studies have addressed the evolutionary history of tree species from African savannahs. Afzelia contains economically important timber species, including two species widely distributed in ... [more ▼]

PREMISE: Few studies have addressed the evolutionary history of tree species from African savannahs. Afzelia contains economically important timber species, including two species widely distributed in African savannahs: A. africana in the Sudanian region and A. quanzensis in the Zambezian region. We aimed to infer whether these species underwent range fragmentation and/or demographic changes, possibly reflecting how savannahs responded to Quaternary climate changes. METHODS: We characterized the genetic diversity and structure of these species across their distribution ranges using nuclear microsatellites (SSRs) and genotyping-by-sequencing (GBS) markers. Six SSR loci were genotyped in 241 A. africana and 113 A. quanzensis individuals, while 2800 high-quality single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were identified in 30 A. africana individuals. RESULTS: Both species appeared to be mainly outcrossing. The kinship between individuals decayed with the logarithm of the distance at similar rates across species and markers, leading to relatively small Sp statistics (0.0056 for SSR and 0.0054 for SNP in A. africana, 0.0075 for SSR in A. quanzensis). The patterns were consistent with isolation by distance expectations in the absence of large-scale geographic gradients. Bayesian clustering of SSR genotypes did not detect genetic clusters within species. In contrast, SNP data resolved intraspecific genetic clusters in A. africana, illustrating the higher resolving power of GBS. However, these clusters revealed low levels of differentiation and no clear geographical entities, so that they were interpreted as resulting from the isolation by distance pattern rather than from past population fragmentation. CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest that populations have remained connected throughout the large, continuous savannah landscapes. The absence of clear phylogeographic discontinuities, also found in a few other African savannah trees, indicates that their distribution ranges have not been significantly fragmented during the climatic oscillations of the Pleistocene, in contrast to patterns commonly found in African rainforest trees. [less ▲]

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See detailSpecies delimitation in the African tree genus Lophira (Ochnaceae) reveals cryptic genetic variation
Ewédjè, Eben-Ezer Baba Kayode; Jansen, Simon; Koffi, Guillaume Kouame et al

in Conservation Genetics (2020), 21

Species delimitation remains a crucial issue for widespread plants occurring across forest-savanna ecotone such as Lophira (Ochnaceae). Most taxonomists recognize two parapatric African tree species ... [more ▼]

Species delimitation remains a crucial issue for widespread plants occurring across forest-savanna ecotone such as Lophira (Ochnaceae). Most taxonomists recognize two parapatric African tree species, widely distributed and morphologically similar but occurring in contrasted habitats: L. lanceolata in the Sudanian dry forests and savannahs and L. alata in the dense Guineo- Congolian forests. Both species co-occur along a ca. 3000 km long forest-savanna mosaic belt, constituting ideal models for investigating hybridization patterns and the impact of past glacial periods on the genetic structures in two types of ecosystems. We genotyped 10 nuclear microsatellites for 803 individuals sampled across the distribution range of Lophira. Both species exhibit similar levels of genetic diversity [He = 0.52 (L. alata); 0.44 (L. lanceolata)] and are well differentiated, consistent with taxonomic delimitation (FST = 0.36; RST = 0.49), refuting the hypothesis that they might constitute ecotypes rather than distinct species. Furthermore, L. alata displayed two deeply differentiated clusters (FST = 0.37; RST = 0.53) distributed in parapatry, one endemic to Western Gabon while another cluster extended over the remaining species range, suggests that L. alata is made of two cryptic species. We showed that rare hybrids occur in some contact zones between these three species, leaving a weak signal of introgression between L. lanceolata and the northern cluster of L. alata. At the intra-specific level, the latter species also show weak genetic structuring between Upper and Lower Guinea and the intensity did not differ strikingly between rainforest and savanna ecosystems. The discovery of a new species of Lophira with a narrow distribution in West Gabon where it is intensively exploited for its timber requires to evaluate its conservation status. [less ▲]

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See detailSeed and pollen dispersal distances in two African legume timber trees and their reproductive potential under selective logging
Hardy, Olivier J.; Delaide, Boris; Hainaut, Hélène et al

in Molecular Ecology (2019)

The natural regeneration of tree species depends on seed and pollen dispersal. To assess whether limited dispersal could be critical for the sustainability of selective logging practices, we performed ... [more ▼]

The natural regeneration of tree species depends on seed and pollen dispersal. To assess whether limited dispersal could be critical for the sustainability of selective logging practices, we performed parentage analyses in two Central African legume canopy species displaying contrasted floral and fruit traits: Distemonanthus benthamianus and Erythrophleum suaveolens. We also developed new tools linking forward dispersal kernels with backward migration rates to better characterize long‐distance dispersal. Much longer pollen dispersal in D. benthamianus (mean distance dp = 700 m, mp = 52% immigration rate in 6 km2 plot, s = 7% selfing rate) than in E. suaveolens (dp = 294 m, mp = 22% in 2 km2 plot, s = 20%) might reflect different insect pollinators. At a local scale, secondary seed dispersal by vertebrates led to larger seed dispersal distances in the barochorous E. suaveolens (ds = 175 m) than in the wind‐dispersed D. benthamianus (ds = 71 m). Yet, seed dispersal appeared much more fat‐tailed in the latter species (15%–25% seeds dispersing >500 m), putatively due to storm winds (papery pods). The reproductive success was correlated to trunk diameter in E. suaveolens and crown dominance in D. benthamianus. Contrary to D. benthamianus, E. suaveolens underwent significant assortative mating, increasing further the already high inbreeding of its juveniles due to selfing, which seems offset by strong inbreeding depression. To achieve sustainable exploitation, seed and pollen dispersal distances did not appear limiting, but the natural regeneration of E. suaveolens might become insufficient if all trees above the minimum legal cutting diameter were exploited. This highlights the importance of assessing the diameter structure of reproductive trees for logged species. [less ▲]

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See detailPlant community assembly along a natural metal gradient in central Africa: Functional and phylogenetic approach
Delhaye, Guillaume; Hardy, Olivier J.; Seleck, Maxime ULiege et al

in Journal of Vegetation Science (2019)

Questions: Do functional and phylogenetic diversity vary along a natural metal gradient? Do resources acquisition and metal tolerance-related traits show the same patterns of variation? Is the ability to ... [more ▼]

Questions: Do functional and phylogenetic diversity vary along a natural metal gradient? Do resources acquisition and metal tolerance-related traits show the same patterns of variation? Is the ability to grow on metal-enriched soil phylogenetically conserved or the result of functional convergence?. Location: Fungurume V hill (10°37′03″ S, 26°17′22″ E), Upper Katanga, Democratic Republic of Congo. Methods: In 21 communities along a natural copper gradient, we quantified the variation of species richness and turnover as well as the phylogenetic diversity. We assessed the variation of three univariate functional indices — community-weighted mean, functional richness and functional dispersion — for ten functional traits related to resources acquisition, conservation, dispersal and metal tolerance strategy. Results and Conclusions: Along a gradient of increasing soil Cu concentration, we found a decrease in species number and a strong species turnover. On metal-poor soils, phylogenetic clustering and overdispersion of functional traits indicated selection for certain clades (e.g. Fabaceae) with many different trait combinations suggesting niche partitioning. On metal-enriched soils, contrary to expectations, we found functional convergence towards trait values associated with rapid resource use, lower stature and smaller seeds in several clades. Conversely, metal tolerance strategy showed a clear overdispersion on metal-rich soils reflecting the presence of several strategies to cope with the excess of metal in the soil. This suggests that some extreme toxicity gradients, such as this one, do not always impose strong functional convergence towards a stress tolerance strategy, as is often assumed. [less ▲]

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See detailHighlighting convergent evolution in morphological traits in response to climatic gradient in African tropical tree species: The case of genus Guibourtia Benn.
Tosso, Dji-ndé Félicien ULiege; Doucet, Jean-Louis ULiege; Daïnou, Kasso ULiege et al

in Ecology and Evolution (2019)

Adaptive evolution is a major driver of organism diversification, but the links between phenotypic traits and environmental niche remain little documented in tropical trees. Moreover, trait-niche ... [more ▼]

Adaptive evolution is a major driver of organism diversification, but the links between phenotypic traits and environmental niche remain little documented in tropical trees. Moreover, trait-niche relationships are complex because a correlation between the traits and environmental niches displayed by a sample of species may result from (a) convergent evolution if different environmental conditions have selected different sets of traits, and/or (b) phylogenetic inertia if niche and morphological differences between species are simply function of their phylogenetic divergence, in which case the trait-niche correlation does not imply any direct causal link. Here, we aim to assess the respective roles of phylogenetic inertia and convergent evolution in shaping the differences of botanical traits and environmental niches among congeneric African tree species that evolved in different biomes. This issue was addressed with the tree genus Guibourtia Benn. (Leguminosae and Detarioideae), which contains 13 African species occupying various forest habitat types, from rain forest to dry woodlands, with different climate and soil conditions. To this end, we combined morphological data with ecological niche modelling and used a highly resolved plastid phylogeny of the 13 African Guibourtia species. First, we demonstrated phylogenetic signals in both morphological traits (Mantel test between phylogenetic and morphological distances between species: r =.24, p =.031) and environmental niches (Mantel test between phylogenetic and niche distances between species: r =.23, p =.025). Second, we found a significant correlation between morphology and niche, at least between some of their respective dimensions (Mantel's r =.32, p =.013), even after accounting for phylogenetic inertia (Phylogenetic Independent Contrast: r =.69, p =.018). This correlation occurred between some leaflet and flower traits and solar radiation, relative humidity, precipitations, and temperature range. Our results demonstrate the convergent evolution of some morphological traits in response to climatic factors in congeneric tree species and highlight the action of selective forces, along with neutral ones, in shaping the divergence between congeneric tropical plants. © 2019 The Authors. Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. [less ▲]

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See detailThe persistence of carbon in the African forest understory
Hubau, Wannes; De Mil, Tom; Van den Bulcke, Jan et al

in Nature Plants (2019)

Quantifying carbon dynamics in forests is critical for understanding their role in long-term climate regulation1–4. Yet little is known about tree longevity in tropical forests3,5–8, a factor that is ... [more ▼]

Quantifying carbon dynamics in forests is critical for understanding their role in long-term climate regulation1–4. Yet little is known about tree longevity in tropical forests3,5–8, a factor that is vital for estimating carbon persistence3,4. Here we calculate mean carbon age (the period that carbon is fixed in trees7) in different strata of African tropical forests using (1) growthring records with a unique timestamp accurately demarcating 66 years of growth in one site and (2) measurements of diameter increments from the African Tropical Rainforest Observation Network (23 sites). We find that in spite of their much smaller size, in understory trees mean carbon age (74 years) is greater than in sub-canopy (54 years) and canopy (57 years) trees and similar to carbon age in emergent trees (66 years). The remarkable carbon longevity in the understory results from slow and aperiodic growth as an adaptation to limited resource availability9–11. Our analysis also reveals that while the understory represents a small share (11%) of the carbon stock12,13, it contributes disproportionally to the forest carbon sink (20%). We conclude that accounting for the diversity of carbon age and carbon sequestration among different forest strata is critical for effective conservation management14–16 and for accurate modelling of carbon cycling4. [less ▲]

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See detailProjet Flux de gènes. Aide à l'application des normes d’aménagement et de certification sur la régénération et la diversité génétique des essences du bassin du Congo.
Daïnou, Kasso ULiege; Donkpegan Segbedji, Armel Loïc; Doucet, Jean-Louis ULiege et al

Conference given outside the academic context (2017)

Contexte • Peu de connaissances sur l’écologie des essences commerciales, dont les processus intervenant dans la régénération • Très peu d’informations sur l’impact de l’exploitation forestière sur la ... [more ▼]

Contexte • Peu de connaissances sur l’écologie des essences commerciales, dont les processus intervenant dans la régénération • Très peu d’informations sur l’impact de l’exploitation forestière sur la régénération des essences commerciales Or exigences croissantes, notamment : • Normes de gestion durable des forêts de production, dont la circulaire 0086 relative à la sylviculture • Normes de certification, dont le critère FSC 6.3 relatif à la régénération et au maintien de la diversité génétique Objectifs : Mieux comprendre les processus en amont de la régénération et proposer des normes d’exploitation considérant la diversité génétique 1. Estimer les distances de dispersion du pollen et des graines, par des outils de biologie moléculaire (tests de parenté et de paternité) 2. Etudier l’effet de l’isolement spatial sur le succès reproducteur, par l’évaluation des niveaux de consanguinité et d’autofécondation, l’écologie classique [less ▲]

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See detailDevelopment of nuclear SNP markers for genetic tracking of Iroko, Milicia excelsa and Milicia regia
Blanc-Jolivet, Céline; Kersten, Birgit; Daïnou, Kasso ULiege et al

in Conservation Genetics Resources (2017)

Iroko, Milicia excelsa, is an economically important tropical hardwood species widely distributed in tropical Africa, from Ivory Coast in Western Africa to Tanzania in Eastern Africa. The species occurs ... [more ▼]

Iroko, Milicia excelsa, is an economically important tropical hardwood species widely distributed in tropical Africa, from Ivory Coast in Western Africa to Tanzania in Eastern Africa. The species occurs at low densities in contrasting habitats such as rainforest and woodlands. Former studies using chloroplast and nuclear sequences, as well as nSSRs, revealed a strong differentiation within the species among West and Central African populations and the presence of three genetic groups in Central Africa (Daïnou et al. 2010, 2014). The genus Milicia also includes another species, M. regia, co-occurring with M. excelsa in West Africa. Both species can be identified genetically and morphologically (Daïnou et al. 2014), but identification is difficult in the field. Although the spatial genetic structure of the species is well described, it is mostly based on nSSRs. Despite their lower diversity, SNP markers provide several advantages including the uncomplicated standardization of data among laboratories and the easy, rapid and low-cost development of markers for large sets of loci. These features make SNPs the ideal markers for setting up genetic reference data for timber tracking (Blanc-Jolivet and Liesebach 2015; Degen et al. 2017; Jardine et al. 2016; Pakull et al. 2016). In this paper, we describe the development of a new set of nuclear SNPs on M. excelsa meant to be used for genetic timber tracking. [less ▲]

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See detailThe influence of spatially structured soil properties on tree community assemblages at a landscape scale in the tropical forests of southern Cameroon
Vleminckx, Jason; Doucet, Jean-Louis ULiege; Morin, Julie ULiege et al

in Journal of Ecology (2016)

Species distribution within plant communities results from both the influence of deterministic processes, related to environmental conditions, and neutral processes related to dispersal limitation and ... [more ▼]

Species distribution within plant communities results from both the influence of deterministic processes, related to environmental conditions, and neutral processes related to dispersal limitation and stochastic events, the relative importance of each factor depending on the observation scale. Assessing the relative contribution of environment necessitates controlling for spatial dependences among data points. Recent methods, combining multiple regression and Moran's eigenvectors maps (MEM), have been proved successful in disentangling the influence of pure spatial processes related to dispersal limitation, pure environmental variables (not spatially structured) and spatially structured environmental properties. However, the latter influence is usually not testable when using advanced spatial models like MEM. To overcome this issue, we propose an original approach, based on torus-translations and Moran spectral randomizations, to test the fraction of species abundance variation that is jointly explained by space and seven soil variables, using three environmental and tree species abundance data sets (consisting of 120, 52 and 34 plots of 0·2 ha each, located along 101-, 66- and 35-km-long transect-like inventories, respectively) collected in tropical moist forests in southern Cameroon. The overall abundance of species represented by ≥30 individuals, and 27% of these species taken individually, were significantly explained by fine-scale (<5 km) and/or broad-scale (5–100 km) spatially structured variations in soil nutrient concentrations (essentially the concentration of available Mn, Mg and Ca) along the 120-plots area. The number of significant tests considerably decreased when investigating the two smaller data sets, which mostly resulted from low statistical power rather than weaker floristic and/or edaphic variation captured among plots. Synthesis. Our results provide evidence that tree species turnovers are partly controlled by spatially structured concentrations in soil nutrients at scales ranging from few hundreds of metres to c. 100 km, a poorly documented subject in Central African forests. We also highlight the usefulness of our testing procedure to correctly interpret the space-soil fraction of variation partitioning analyses (which always accounted here for the most important part of the soil contribution), as this fraction was sometimes relatively high (R2 values up to c. 0·3) but nearly or not significant. [less ▲]

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See detailRevealing hidden species diversity in closely related species using nuclear SNPs, SSRs and DNA sequences - a case study in the tree genus Milicia
Daïnou, Kasso ULiege; Blanc-Jolivet, Céline; Degen, Bernd et al

in BMC Evolutionary Biology (2016), 16(259), 15

Background: Species delimitation in closely related plant taxa can be challenging because (i) reproductive barriers are not always congruent with morphological differentiation, (ii) use of plastid ... [more ▼]

Background: Species delimitation in closely related plant taxa can be challenging because (i) reproductive barriers are not always congruent with morphological differentiation, (ii) use of plastid sequences might lead to misinterpretation, (iii) rare species might not be sampled. We revisited molecular-based species delimitation in the African genus Milicia, currently divided into M. regia (West Africa) and M. excelsa (from West to East Africa). We used 435 samples collected in West, Central and East Africa. We genotyped SNP and SSR loci to identify genetic clusters, and sequenced two plastid regions (psbA-trnH, trnC-ycf6) and a nuclear gene (At103) to confirm species’ divergence and compare species delimitation methods. We also examined whether ecological niche differentiation was congruent with sampled genetic structure. Results: West African M. regia, West African and East African M. excelsa samples constituted three well distinct genetic clusters according to SNPs and SSRs. In Central Africa, two genetic clusters were consistently inferred by both types of markers, while a few scattered samples, sympatric with the preceding clusters but exhibiting leaf traits of M. regia, were grouped with the West African M. regia cluster based on SNPs or formed a distinct cluster based on SSRs. SSR results were confirmed by sequence data from the nuclear region At103 which revealed three distinct ‘Fields For Recombination’ corresponding to (i) West African M. regia, (ii) Central African samples with leaf traits of M. regia, and (iii) all M. excelsa samples. None of the plastid sequences provide indication of distinct clades of the three species-like units. Niche modelling techniques yielded a significant correlation between niche overlap and genetic distance. Conclusions: Our genetic data suggest that three species of Milicia could be recognized. It is surprising that the occurrence of two species in Central Africa was not reported for this well-known timber tree. Globally, our work highlights the importance of collecting samples in a systematic way and the need for combining different nuclear markers when dealing with species complexes. Recognizing cryptic species is particularly crucial for economically exploited species because some hidden taxa might actually be endangered as they are merged with more abundant species. [less ▲]

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See detailHigh selfing rate, limited pollen dispersal and inbreeding depression in the emblematic African rain forest tree Baillonella toxisperma - Management implications
Duminil, Jérôme; Mendene Abessolo, D. T.; Ndiade Bourobou, D. et al

in Forest Ecology and Management (2016), 379

Mating system and gene flow are major influencing factors of species population dynamics and evolution. These factors are often not characterized in tropical tree species, yet they constitute basic ... [more ▼]

Mating system and gene flow are major influencing factors of species population dynamics and evolution. These factors are often not characterized in tropical tree species, yet they constitute basic information that must be considered to implement sustainable management practices. In particular, as logging implies a reduction of the density of congeneric mates, the connectivity through pollination between individuals has to be well characterized (selfing versus outcrossing rates, distances between mates). We conducted a genetic-based analysis (using 10 nuclear microsatellites) to determine the mating system and gene flow characteristics of an emblematic timber tree species from lowland rain forests of the Congo Basin, Baillonella toxisperma (Sapotaceae). The species, which is frequently exploited for its wood and for a number of non-timber forest products, naturally occurs at low densities (ca. 0.01–0.1 individuals/ha). It is supposedly an entomophilous species whose seeds are probably dispersed by mammals. We have shown that the species presents a mixed-mating system (about 20–40% of selfing depending on analysis method). However, the comparison of inbreeding parameters among cohorts suggests that inbred individuals die between seedling and mature tree stages. The mean pollen dispersal distance was relatively low for such a low-density population species (estimated to be 690 or 777 m depending on analysis method) and, together with a low mean number of pollen donors (NEP = 2.76), it suggests a pattern of nearest-neighbour mating where allo-pollen could be a limiting factor. However, B. toxisperma presents a relatively weak genetic structure (Sp statistic = 0.0095) indicative of long gene dispersal distance (rg = 3–5 km according to the assumed effective population density). Overall, this would indicate that gene flow occurs mainly by extensive seed dispersal in this species. These results suggest that mammals and local populations involved in the dispersal of the species play a key role by lowering biparental inbreeding effects. Sustainable population management might require assisted regeneration using unrelated planting material. [less ▲]

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See detailHigh spatial resolution of late-Holocene human activities in the moist forests of central Africa using soil charcoal and charred botanical remains
Morin, Julie ULiege; Biwolé, Achille; Gorel, Anaïs ULiege et al

in Holocene (2016), 26(12), 1954-1967

Palaeoecological and archaeological studies have demonstrated that human populations have long inhabited the moist forests of central Africa. However, spatial and temporal patterns of human activities ... [more ▼]

Palaeoecological and archaeological studies have demonstrated that human populations have long inhabited the moist forests of central Africa. However, spatial and temporal patterns of human activities have hardly been investigated with satisfactory accuracy. In this study, we propose to characterize past human activities at local scale by using a systematic quantitative and qualitative methodology based on soil charcoal and charred botanical remains. A total of 88 equidistant test-pits were excavated along six transects in two contrasting forest types in southern Cameroon. Charred botanical remains were collected by water-sieving and sorted by type (wood charcoals, oil palm endocarps, and unidentified seeds). A total of 50 Accelerator Mass Spectrometry 14C dates were also obtained. Results showed that charred macroremains were found at multiple places in the forest, suggesting scattered human activities, which were distributed into two main periods (Phase A: 2300-1300 BP – Phase B: 580 BP to the present). Charred botanical remains indicated two types of land use: (i) domestic, with oil palm endocarps most often associated with potsherds (villages) and (ii) agricultural, with charcoal as probable remnant of slash-and-burn cultivation (fields). Oil palm endocarp abundance decreased with distance from the identified human settlements. Our methodology allowed documenting, at high resolution, the spatial and temporal patterns of human activities in central African moist forests and could be applied to other tropical contexts. [less ▲]

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See detailContributing to wood anatomical databases to improve species identification, phylogeny and functional trait research in Central Africa
Morin, Julie ULiege; Fayolle, Adeline ULiege; De Ridder, Maaike et al

Poster (2015, May 26)

Central African rainforests shelter a high number of woody species that are anatomically very different. Knowledge of taxon-specific wood anatomical features has proven indispensable for scientific and ... [more ▼]

Central African rainforests shelter a high number of woody species that are anatomically very different. Knowledge of taxon-specific wood anatomical features has proven indispensable for scientific and non-scientific applications. The field of wood anatomy and identification has been drastically revolutionized by the development of internationally recognized lists of precisely illustrated microscopic features (e.g. IAWA Committee 1989), together with the launch of InsideWood, an online search database using these features to narrow down identification results (e.g. Wheeler 2011). However, despite these massive efforts, the anatomy of many species or even genera remains in the dark, especially in species-rich regions. Wood anatomy has been formally described for less than 25% of the Central African woody species (Hubau et al. 2012), the focus has been mainly on timber species and variations in wood anatomical structure remain to be explored. Therefore, we are assembling a wood anatomical database of about 800 species covering the Guineo-Congolian region using material from InsideWood and the Tervuren xylarium (new descriptions). As such, we present how large anatomical databases hold interesting perspectives for (i) wood and charcoal identification, (ii) exploring the phylogenetic signal of wood anatomy, and (iii) the relationship between wood anatomical features and functional traits. [less ▲]

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See detailSeed and pollen dispersal in Guineo-Congolian canopy tree species – insights from genetic markers in multiple species
Hardy, Olivier J.; Duminil, Jérôme; Daïnou, Kasso ULiege et al

Conference (2015, April)

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See detailLight Response of Seedlings of a Central African Timber Tree Species, Lophira alata (Ochnaceae), and the Definition of Light Requirements
Biwolé, Achille ULiege; Daïnou, Kasso ULiege; Fayolle, Adeline ULiege et al

in Biotropica (2015), 47(6), 681-688

Light is of primary importance in structuring tropical tree communities. Light exposure at seedling and adult stages has been used to characterize the ecological profile of tropical trees, with many ... [more ▼]

Light is of primary importance in structuring tropical tree communities. Light exposure at seedling and adult stages has been used to characterize the ecological profile of tropical trees, with many implications in forest management and restoration ecology. Most shadetolerance classification systems have been proposed based on empirical observations in a specific area and thus result in contradictions among categories assigned to a given species. In this study, we aimed to quantify the light requirements for seedling growth of a Central African timber tree, Lophira alata (Ochnaceae), taking into account effects of population origin. In two controlled experiments: a light response experiment and a comparative population experiment, conducted in southwestern Cameroon, using seeds collected from four populations (three from Cameroon and one from Gabon), we examined the quantitative responses to irradiance of seedlings. After 2 years, mortality was very low (<3%), even in extremely low irradiance. Growth and biomass allocation patterns varied in response to light, with intermediate irradiance (24–43%) providing optimal conditions. Light response differed between populations. The Boumba population in the northeastern edge of the species’ distribution exhibited the highest light requirements, suggesting a local adaptation. As a result of positive growth at low irradiance and maximum growth at intermediate irradiance, we concluded that L. alata exhibits characteristics of both non-pioneer and pioneer species. Implications of our results to propose an objective way to assign the light requirement for tropical tree species are discussed. [less ▲]

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See detailLate Pleistocene molecular dating of past population fragmentation and demographic changes in African rain forest tree species supports the forest refuge hypothesis
Duminil, Jérôme; Mona, Stefano; Mardulyn, Patrick et al

in Journal of Biogeography (2015), 42

Aim : Phylogeographical signatures of past population fragmentation and demographic change have been reported in several African rain forest trees. These signatures have usually been interpreted in the ... [more ▼]

Aim : Phylogeographical signatures of past population fragmentation and demographic change have been reported in several African rain forest trees. These signatures have usually been interpreted in the light of the Pleistocene forest refuge hypothesis, although dating these events has remained impracticable because of inadequate genetic markers. We assess the timing of interspecific and intraspecific genetic differentiation and demographic changes within two rain forest Erythrophleum tree species (Fabaceae: Caesalpinioideae). Location : Tropical forests of Upper Guinea (West Africa) and Lower Guinea (Atlantic Central Africa). Methods : Six single-copy nuclear genes were used to characterize the phylogeographical patterns of the parapatric sister species Erythrophleum suaveolens (characteristic of semi-deciduous or gallery forests) and Erythrophleum ivorense (characteristic of evergreen forests). The number of gene pools within each species was determined and the timings of their divergence and past demographic changes were estimated using Bayesian-based coalescent approaches. Results : Three geographically separated gene pools were identified within E. suaveolens, and a single gene pool was inferred in E. ivorense. All gene pools show signatures of demographic bottlenecks concomitant with the last glacial period (c. 120–12 ka). Species-tree inferences show that the two species diverged c. 600 ka, whereas the divergence between E. suaveolens gene pools was dated to the late Pleistocene (first divergence c. 120 ka, second c. 60 ka). Main conclusions : (1) Molecular dating of demographic changes of two African tropical forest tree species is consistent with the Pleistocene forest refuge hypothesis. (2) Tree species from Guinean evergreen tropical forests might have been less affected by past climate change than semi-deciduous species. (3) Our phylogeographical data support a recent date (Holocene) of the last opening of the Dahomey Gap. [less ▲]

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See detailNew data on the recent history of the littoral forests of southern Cameroon: an insight into the role of historical human disturbances on the current forest composition
Biwolé, Achille ULiege; Morin-Rivat, Julie ULiege; Fayolle, Adeline ULiege et al

in Plant Ecology and Evolution (2015), 148(1), 19-28

Background and aims – Prior to European colonisation of Central Africa, human populations were dispersed through the forests, where they practiced slash-and-burn cultivation. From the 19th century they ... [more ▼]

Background and aims – Prior to European colonisation of Central Africa, human populations were dispersed through the forests, where they practiced slash-and-burn cultivation. From the 19th century they were progressively concentrated in villages along roads, leaving large areas of forest derelict. In south-western Cameroon, and elsewhere in Central Africa, forest canopy is dominated by long-lived lightdemanding tree species, suggesting a possible role of human disturbance. The aim of this study was to bring new insights into the possible effect of historical human disturbances in terms of timing and spatial extent on the current forest composition. Location – Wet evergreen littoral forest in south-western Cameroon. Methods and key results – A combined vegetation sampling and archaeobotanical survey were conducted. Potsherds, oil-palm endocarps, and charcoal were found throughout the study area, suggesting generalised human occupation and anthropogenic fire. Human occupancy occurred in two periods: between 2200 and 1500 BP, and, more recently, beginning three centuries ago. High frequency of fire and the presence of Elaeis guineensis both dated recently (between 260 and 145 BP) suggest slash-and-burn shifting cultivation practices. These human-induced disturbances may coincide with the age of the current emergent lightdemanding species, the age of which can be estimated around 200 years, or with the phases of drying climate recorded in the Central African forest in the early 18th century. Conclusions – These results support the idea that historical human disturbances are one of the major factors that shaped the current forest composition in Central Africa. [less ▲]

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