Effects of tropical rainforest disturbance on gene flow, genomic diversity and introgression in understory trees: the case of Coffea canephora in the Congo basin.
Tropical rainforests cover only 7% of the earth’s surface, but they are by far the richest biomes in terms of vascular plant diversity. To ensure the resilience and long-term stability of tropical rainforests, fostering the regeneration of the occurring woody plant species is critical. Yet, crucial aspects of gene flow, including pollination and seed dispersal, have become strongly jeopardized through ongoing large-scale anthropogenic disturbances of tropical forests. Furthermore, many crop wild relatives from tropical forests face the risk of hybridization with planted cultivars. The general objective of this project is to study the population genetic structure, gene flow and the pollination and frugivorous communities in Robusta coffee, a tropical rainforest understory shrub, in the Congo Basin. Comparing coffee populations from regions that differ in their degree of anthropogenic pressure, will enable us to investigate the potential threats from anthropogenic interferences. To this end, we will combine (i) state of the art genomic tools to quantify genetic diversity and gene flow, (ii) observations of pollinator communties and frugivores, and (iii) experimental work.
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