Geneticists in pre-Columbian footsteps

The Ecological Genetics lab has performed a one-week field trip, including scientists from INRA, the University of French West Indies and INRAP, to the CNRS research station of Nouragues, French Guiana, to detect archaeological marks of the presence of pre-Columbian settlements and to sample tree populations to characterise the forest’s past population history. This sample collection, which is a part of Stephanie Barthe’s PhD thesis, of Mélanie Chazalet’s undergraduate internship, and of the COUAC project, aimed at the description of present and past population diversity in four forest tree species in the genera Dicorynia, Vouacapoua, Carapa and Virola. Genetic diversity data will be screened for marks of past populations’ demographic changes by the application of statistical tests derived from the coalescent theory and will be used to infer the potential impact of the presence of human settlements, as well as of climatic changes having occurred in historical times, on the structure of forest stands. These results will be helpful to understand the ecological history of tropical forests and to predict the effects of future global changes.

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