Seed production, germinability and seedling growth for a bird-pollinated shrub in fragments of kwongan in south-west Australia
Yates, C.J., Elliott, C., Byrne, M., Coates, D.J. and Fairman, R. (2007) Seed production, germinability and seedling growth for a bird-pollinated shrub in fragments of kwongan in south-west Australia. Biological Conservation, 136 (2). pp. 306-314.
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In this study we investigate the effect of population size on the proportion of flowers that produce a fruit (fruit set), the number of seeds per fruit (seed set), seed germinability, seedling mortality and growth in a range of population fragments for the bird-pollinated mixed mating system shrub Calothamnus quadrifidus R. Br. (Myrtaceae). We found no significant linear relationship (p < 0.05) between population fragment size and fruit set in any of the three years reproduction was studied. In contrast, we found a very strong positive correlation between the number of seeds produced per fruit and increasing population fragment size for each of the three years. We found no significant linear relationships between population fragment size and seed germination, or seedling growth and mortality. The most plausible explanation for the decline in seed set is increased inbreeding in smaller populations. Although a previous mating system analysis with allozymes did not reflect the above, we present evidence from other lines of inquiry to indicate that inbreeding does increase in smaller populations, but is masked by post-zygotic lethal systems that eliminate genetically incompetent homozygous embryos. We found no evidence that highly mobile pollinators transporting pollen among fragments rescue small fragments from inbreeding. We discuss the implications of our findings for the conservation of plant diversity in fragments of species rich Mediterranean climate shrublands.
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