top of page

Start:1 January 2019                               End: 31 December 2022

project summary

Project title: Effects of tropical rainforest disturbance on gene flow, genomic diversity and introgression in understory trees: the case of Coffea canephora in the Congo basin.

Tropical rainforests cover only 7% of the earth’s surface, but they are by far the richest biomes in terms of vascular plant diversity. To ensure the resilience and long-term stability of tropical rainforests, fostering the regeneration of the occurring woody plant species is critical. Yet, crucial aspects of gene flow, including pollination and seed dispersal, have become strongly jeopardized through ongoing large-scale anthropogenic disturbances of tropical forests. Furthermore, many crop wild relatives from tropical forests face the risk of hybridization with planted cultivars. The general objective of this project is to study the population genetic structure, gene flow and the pollination and frugivorous communities in Robusta coffee, a tropical rainforest understory shrub, in the Congo Basin. Comparing coffee populations from regions that differ in their degree of anthropogenic pressure, will enable us to investigate the potential threats from anthropogenic interferences. To this end, we will combine (i) state of the art genomic tools to quantify genetic diversity and gene flow, (ii) observations of pollinator communties and frugivores, and (iii) experimental work.

Aims of the coffea canphora project

The general objective of this project is to study the effects of rainforest disturbance on population genetic structure, genetic integrity and gene flow in C. canephora, a SI tropical rainforest understory shrub.

The specific objectives are to:
1) Develop a set of molecular markers to study population structure, gene flow and introgression in Coffea canephora using genotyping-by-sequencing (GBS) for the identification of SNPs. 

2) Compare the population genetic structure between a disturbed (Yangambi) and pristine (Salonga) region using a genomic approach (GBS SNP).

3) Characterize pollinator and frugivorous community composition and pollen loads on insects among multiple coffee populations in the pristine Salonga and the disturbed Yangambi region, using a pollinator network approach.

4) Assess the extent of genome-wide introgression between coffee landraces and wild coffee using GBS SNP.

highlights of the coffea canephora project


Olivier Honnay (Catholic University of Leuven - KULeuven, Belgium): project coordinator and contact person

Filip Vandelook (Meise Botanic Garden, Belgium)
Isabel Roldan (Research Institute of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food - ILVO, Belgium)
Tom Ruttink (Research Inst
itute of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food - ILVO, Belgium)
Kurt Jordaens (Royal Museum for Central Africa, Belgium)
Benoit Dhed'a (Université de Kisangani, DRCongo)

see more on the Partners Page


FWO Flanders logo.png
bottom of page