Tropical rainforests that persisted: inferences from the Quaternary demographic history of eight tree species in the Guiana shield

Abstract : How Quaternary climatic and geological disturbances influenced the composition of Neotropical forests is hotly debated. Rain fall and temperature changes during and/or immediately after the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) are thought to have strongly affected the geographical distribution and local abundance of tree species. The paucity of the fossil records in Neotropical forests prevents a direct reconstruction of such processes. To describe community-level historical trends in forest composition, we turned therefore to inferential methods based on the reconstruction of past demographic changes. In particular, we modelled the history of rainforests in the Eastern Guiana Shield over a time scale of several thousand generations, through the application of Approximate Bayesian Computation (ABC) and Maximum Likelihood (ML) methods to diversity data at nuclear and chloroplast loci in eight species or subspecies of rainforest trees. Depending on the species and on the method applied, we detected population contraction, expansion or stability, with a general trend in favour of stability or expansion, with changes presumably having occurred during or after the LGM. These findings suggest that Guiana Shield rain forests have globally persisted, while expanding, through the Quaternary, but that different species have experienced different demographic events, with a trend towards the increase in frequency of light-demanding, disturbance-associated species.
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Stéphanie Barthe, Giorgio Binelli, Bruno Herault, Caroline Scotti-Saintagne, Daniel Sabatier, et al.. Tropical rainforests that persisted: inferences from the Quaternary demographic history of eight tree species in the Guiana shield. Molecular Ecology, Wiley, 2016, ⟨10.1111/mec.13949⟩. ⟨hal-01512150⟩

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