Effects of forest management on mating patterns, pollen flow and intergenerational transfer of genetic diversity in wild Arabica coffee (Coffea arabica L.) from Afromontane rainforests
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Coffea arabica, the wild ancestor of all commercial Arabica coffee cultivars worldwide, is endemic to the montane rainforests of Ethiopia. These forests, which harbour the most important C. arabica gene pool, are threatened by increasing anthropogenic disturbance, potentially altering the mating patterns, pollen dispersal and maintenance of genetic diversity in C. arabica understorey populations. We genotyped 376 adult coffee shrubs and 418 progenies from three natural unmanaged, and three highly managed coffee populations, using 24 microsatellite markers. Mating system analysis of C. arabica yielded an overall multilocus outcrossing rate of 76%, which contrasts with the common knowledge that C. arabica is a predominantly selfing species. In highly managed coffee populations, paternity could be assigned to 78% of the progenies, whereas in the unmanaged natural coffee populations, only 57% of the progenies could be assigned to a father, indicating reduced long-distance pollen dispersal in managed forests. Furthermore, the fraction of selfed progenies was significantly higher in managed (23%) than unmanaged (10%) coffee forests. Finally, the lack of spatial genetic structure in all studied populations suggests high seed dispersal in unmanaged populations, and intense berry harvesting and coffee planting in the managed populations. Our results imply that in situ conservation of the wild gene pool of C. arabica must focus on limiting intensification of coffee forest management, as decreased pollen dispersal and increased selfing in C. arabica in intensively managed populations may increase the risk of genetic erosion.