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Genetics. 2004 Feb;166(2):1081-92.

Influence of spatial and temporal heterogeneities on the estimation of demographic parameters in a continuous population using individual microsatellite data.

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  • 1Centre de Biologie et de Gestion des Populations, Campus International de Baillarguet CS 30 016, 34988 Montferrier sur Lez, France.


Drift and migration disequilibrium are very common in animal and plant populations. Yet their impact on methods of estimation of demographic parameters was rarely evaluated especially in complex realistic population models. The effect of such disequilibria on the estimation of demographic parameters depends on the population model, the statistics, and the genetic markers used. Here we considered the estimation of the product Dsigma2 from individual microsatellite data, where D is the density of adults and sigma2 the average squared axial parent-offspring distance in a continuous population evolving under isolation by distance. A coalescence-based simulation algorithm was used to study the effect on Dsigma2 estimation of temporal and spatial fluctuations of demographic parameters. Estimation of present-time Dsigma2 values was found to be robust to temporal changes in dispersal, to density reduction, and to spatial expansions with constant density, even for relatively recent changes (i.e., a few tens of generations ago). By contrast, density increase in the recent past gave Dsigma2 estimations biased largely toward past demographic parameters values. The method was also robust to spatial heterogeneity in density and estimated local demographic parameters when the density is homogenous around the sampling area (e.g., on a surface that equals four times the sampling area). Hence, in the limit of the situations studied in this article, and with the exception of the case of density increase, temporal and spatial fluctuations of demographic parameters appear to have a limited influence on the estimation of local and present-time demographic parameters with the method studied.

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