[en] African rainforests have undergone major distribution range shifts during the Quaternary, but few studies have investigated their impact on the genetic diversity of plant species and we lack knowledge on the extent of gene flow to predict how plant species can cope with such environmental changes. Analysis of the spatial genetic structure (SGS) of a species is an effective method to determine major directions of the demographic history of its populations and to estimate the extent of gene dispersal. This study characterises the SGS of an African tropical timber tree species, Distemonanthus benthamianus, at various spatial scales in Cameroon and Gabon. Displaying a large continuous distribution in the Lower Guinea domain, this is a model species to detect signs of past population fragmentation and recolonization, and to estimate the extent of gene dispersal. Ten microsatellite loci were used to genotype 295 adult trees sampled from eight populations. Three clearly differentiated gene pools were resolved at this regional scale and could be linked to the biogeographical history of the
region, rather than to physical barriers to gene flow. A comparison with the distribution of gene pools observed for two other tree species living in the same region invalidates the basic assumption that all species share the same Quaternary refuges and recolonization pathways. In four populations, significant and similar patterns of SGS were detected. Indirect estimates of gene dispersal distances (sigma) obtained for three populations ranged from 400 to 1200m, whereas neighbourhood size estimates ranged from 50 to 110.