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Genetic structure in fragmented populations of Solanum lycocarpum A. St.-Hil. with distinct anthropogenic histories in a Cerrado region of Brazil

Author(s): T.M. Moura, K. Martins, P.S. Sujii, A.M. Sebbenn and L.J. Chaves

Solanum lycocarpum is a woody tree widely distributed in the Cerrado that reaches high population densities in disturbed environments. We examined the genetic diversity and population differentiation of six S. lycocarpum populations with different degrees of human disturbance in order to determine if they are negatively affected by anthropogenic activity. Three populations located in southern and three located in southeastern regions of Goiás State, Central Brazil, were genotyped with five microsatellite markers. The population located in a protected area had higher number of alleles (26) than the remaining populations (19 to 21alleles). It indicates that extensive and continuous areas of preserved native vegetation contribute positively to the conservation of genetic diversity, even with S. lycocarpum that easily adapts to disturbed environments. The three southeastern populations, although fragmented, had preserved native vegetation and were not significantly different from each other (θp = 0.002). All other population pairs compared were significantly divergent (θp varied from 0.03 to 0.11 between pairs, P < 0.05). We found three distinct sets of allele frequencies. The three southeastern populations shared similar gene pools, as well as the two disturbed southern populations, which are secondary vegetation. The southern population located in protected area had the most dissimilar gene pool. In conclusion, populations showing a higher degree of human disturbance tends to show a larger population differentiation than expected from the isolation by distance model, which in the current scenario of the Cerrado destruction points out to a threat to the long-term conservation of the species.