Geographical context outweighs habitat disturbance effects in explaining mistletoe population genetic differentiation at a regional scale

Francisco E. Fontúrbel, Gloria B. Rodríguez-Gómez, José I. Orellana, Jorge Cortés-Miranda, Noemí Rojas-Hernández, Caren Vega-Retter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Genetic differentiation depends on ecological and evolutionary processes that operate at different spatial and temporal scales. While the geographical context is likely to determine large-scale genetic variation patterns, habitat disturbance events will probably influence small-scale genetic diversity and gene flow patterns. Therefore, the genetic diversity patterns that we observe today result from the combination of both processes, but they are rarely assessed simultaneously. We determined the population structure and genetic diversity of a hemiparasitic mistletoe (Tristerix corymbosus) from the temperate rainforests of southern Chile to determine the effects of geographical context and habitat disturbance at a regional scale and if it is affected by the abundance and occurrence of its seed disperser mutualist (the arboreal marsupial Dromiciops gliroides). We genotyped 359 individuals from 12 populations using single nucleotide polymorphisms, across three different geographical contexts and four disturbance conditions. We also used camera traps to estimate the abundance and occurrence of the seed disperser. Our results suggest that genetic differences among populations are related more to geographical context than to habitat disturbance. However, as disturbance increased, D. gliroides abundance and occurrence decreased, and mistletoe inbreeding index (FIS) increased. We also found highly uneven gene flow among study sites. Despite the high levels of disturbance that these temperate rainforests are facing, our results suggest that mistletoe genetic differentiation at a regional scale was more influenced by historical events. However, habitat disturbance can indirectly affect mistletoe population genetic differentiation via the seed dispersal process, which may increase levels of inbreeding.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1389-1402
Number of pages14
JournalMolecular Ecology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 2022


  • Chile
  • continental island
  • gene flow
  • glacial refugia
  • habitat disturbance
  • landscape
  • temperate rainforest


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