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Breeding system, pollination and demography in the rare granite endemic shrub Verticordia staminosa ssp. staminosa in south-west Western Australia

Yates, C.J. and Ladd, P.G.ORCID: 0000-0002-7730-9685 (2004) Breeding system, pollination and demography in the rare granite endemic shrub Verticordia staminosa ssp. staminosa in south-west Western Australia. Austral Ecology, 29 (2). pp. 189-200.

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Verticordia staminosa C. Gardner & A. S. George staminosa (Myrtaceae) is a rare granite endemic shrub that grows in discrete subpopulations on one isolated rock outcrop in a remnant of native vegetation in the Western Australian wheat belt. Key considerations in assessing the risk of extinction for rare plant species in fragmented landscapes are the reproductive dependence on a pollinator, breeding system, importance of seeds in demography, and regeneration niche. The present study determined the extent to which these factors constrain population growth in V. staminosa ssp. staminosa. Measurements across nine subpopulations on the breeding system, pollinator activity, rates of flowering, pollination and seed production, seedling demography, mature plant mortality and size-class structure were undertaken over three consecutive years. The study species has a mixed mating system with similar rates of pollen tube development and fertilization observed in self-, cross- and open-pollinated flowers. Floral morphology, orientation and the concentration and volume of nectar produced suggest some degree of specialization associated with pollination by birds, which were occasionally seen visiting flowers. However, feral honey bees were the most commonly observed flower visitor and they seem to have replaced honeyeaters as the primary pollinator. Honey-bee abundance increased with subpopulation size. However, rates of pollination and the subsequent proportion of flowers that produced viable seeds were independent of subpopulation size. Germination and seedling emergence occurred each winter but were greatest in the wettest winter. Recruitment was heavily biased towards individuals growing in or over cracks/fissures in the rock. Over the 3-year study, recruitment exceeded mortality. A relatively unspecialized flower and mixed mating system have buffered the taxon against the effects of pollinator disruption. Seed production does not constrain population growth. The environmental variables of climate and suitable establishment crevices appear to be the major constraints to population growth.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Environmental Science
Publisher: Blackwell Publishing Inc
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