Skip to main content

Data from: Back from the brink: potential for genetic rescue in a critically endangered tree

Cite this dataset

Finger, Aline et al. (2011). Data from: Back from the brink: potential for genetic rescue in a critically endangered tree [Dataset]. Dryad.


Rare plant species are vulnerable to genetic erosion and inbreeding associated with small population size and isolation due to increasing fragmentation, though the degree to which these problems undermine population viability remains debated. We explore genetic and reproductive processes in the critically endangered long-lived tropical tree Medusagyne oppositifolia, an endemic to the Seychelles with a naturally patchy distribution. This species is failing to recruit in three of its four populations. We evaluate whether recruitment failure is linked to genetic problems associated with fragmentation, and if genetic rescue can mitigate such problems. Medusagyne oppositifolia comprises 90 extant trees in four populations, with only the largest (78 trees) having successful recruitment. Using 10 microsatellite loci we demonstrated that genetic diversity is high (HE: 0.48 – 0.63; HO: 0.56 – 0.78) in three populations, with only the smallest population having relatively low diversity (HE: 0.26 and HO: 0.30). All populations have unique alleles, high genetic differentiation, and significant within population structure. Pollen and seed dispersal distances were mostly less than 100 m. Individuals in small populations were more related than individuals in the large population, thus inbreeding might explain recruitment failure in small populations. Indeed, inter-population pollination crosses from the large donor population to a small recipient population resulted in higher reproductive success relative to within-population crosses. Our study highlights the importance of maintaining gene flow between populations even in species that have naturally patchy distributions. We demonstrate the potential for genetic and ecological rescue to support conservation of plant species with limited gene flow.

Usage notes