The African buffalo, Syncerus caffer, is a key species in African ecosystems. Like other large herbivores, it plays a fundamental role in its habitat acting as an ecosystem engineer. Over the last few centuries, African buffalo populations have declined because of range contraction and demographic decline caused by direct or indirect human activities. In Mozambique, historically home to large buffalo herds, the combined effect of colonialism and subsequent civil wars has created a critical situation that urgently needs to be addressed. In this study, we focused on the analysis of genetic diversity of Syncerus caffer caffer populations from six areas of Mozambique. Using genome-wide SNPs obtained from ddRAD sequencing, we examined the population structure across the country, estimated gene flow between areas under conservation management, including national reserves, and assessed the inbreeding coefficients. Our results indicate that all studied populations of Syncerus caffer caffer are genetically depauperate, with a high level of inbreeding. Moreover, buffaloes in Mozambique present a significant population differentiation between southern and central areas. We found an unexpected genotype in the Gorongosa National Park, where buffaloes experienced a dramatic population size reduction, that shares a common ancestry with southern populations of Catuane and Namaacha. This could suggest the past occurrence of a connection between southern and central Mozambique and that the observed population structuring could reflect recent events of anthropogenic origin. All the populations analysed showed high levels of homozygosity, likely due to extensive inbreeding over the last few decades, which could have increased the frequency of recessive deleterious alleles. Improving the resilience of Syncerus caffer caffer in Mozambique is essential for preserving the ecosystem integrity. The most viable approach appears to be facilitating translocations and re-establishing connectivity between isolated herds. However, our results also highlight the importance of assessing intraspecific genetic diversity when considering interventions aimed at enhancing population viability such as selecting suitable source populations.

Genome-wide diversity, population structure and signatures of inbreeding in the African buffalo in Mozambique

Di Civita M.;Senczuk G.;Pilla F.;
2024-01-01

Abstract

The African buffalo, Syncerus caffer, is a key species in African ecosystems. Like other large herbivores, it plays a fundamental role in its habitat acting as an ecosystem engineer. Over the last few centuries, African buffalo populations have declined because of range contraction and demographic decline caused by direct or indirect human activities. In Mozambique, historically home to large buffalo herds, the combined effect of colonialism and subsequent civil wars has created a critical situation that urgently needs to be addressed. In this study, we focused on the analysis of genetic diversity of Syncerus caffer caffer populations from six areas of Mozambique. Using genome-wide SNPs obtained from ddRAD sequencing, we examined the population structure across the country, estimated gene flow between areas under conservation management, including national reserves, and assessed the inbreeding coefficients. Our results indicate that all studied populations of Syncerus caffer caffer are genetically depauperate, with a high level of inbreeding. Moreover, buffaloes in Mozambique present a significant population differentiation between southern and central areas. We found an unexpected genotype in the Gorongosa National Park, where buffaloes experienced a dramatic population size reduction, that shares a common ancestry with southern populations of Catuane and Namaacha. This could suggest the past occurrence of a connection between southern and central Mozambique and that the observed population structuring could reflect recent events of anthropogenic origin. All the populations analysed showed high levels of homozygosity, likely due to extensive inbreeding over the last few decades, which could have increased the frequency of recessive deleterious alleles. Improving the resilience of Syncerus caffer caffer in Mozambique is essential for preserving the ecosystem integrity. The most viable approach appears to be facilitating translocations and re-establishing connectivity between isolated herds. However, our results also highlight the importance of assessing intraspecific genetic diversity when considering interventions aimed at enhancing population viability such as selecting suitable source populations.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11695/135612
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