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Mating strategies dictate the importance of insect visits to native plants in urban fragments

Eakin-Busher, E.L., Ladd, P.G.ORCID: 0000-0002-7730-9685, Fontaine, J.B.ORCID: 0000-0002-6515-7864 and Standish, R.J.ORCID: 0000-0001-8118-1904 (2020) Mating strategies dictate the importance of insect visits to native plants in urban fragments. Australian Journal of Botany, 68 (1). pp. 26-36.

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Plant species conservation relies on their reproductive success and likelihood of population persistence. Knowledge of plant mating systems, particularly the relationship between plants and their pollinators, is fundamental to inform conservation efforts. This knowledge could be critical for prioritising efforts in human-dominated fragmented landscapes such as the world’s biodiversity hotspots, where reproductive success can be compromised due to habitat loss, limited access to pollinators or other factors. Yet, fundamental data on plant mating systems are lacking for many Australian plants. Here we determined the mating systems of native plant species growing in native woodland fragments within Perth’s urban landscape in south-western Australia. We manipulated insect access to flowers and pollen transfer on five locally common native species, then observed floral visitors and examined reproductive success. Hemiandra pungens and Patersonia occidentalis had mixed mating systems with some ability to self-pollinate, whereas Dianella revoluta and Jacksonia sericea were reliant on insects for outcross pollination. The fruits and seeds produced by Tricoryne elatior were too low to draw conclusions about its mating system. The introduced honey bee (Apis mellifera) was the sole visitor to the mixed mating species, whereas native bees visited D. revoluta and J. sericea (one bee species each). Overall, our data suggest that D. revoluta and J. sericea are more vulnerable to fragmentation than H. pungens and P. occidentalis. Although insects contributed significantly to the reproductive output of the two former plant species, our observations suggested low frequency and richness of insect visitors to these urban fragments. More research is required to determine the generality of our findings. A comparative study in larger native woodland fragments would help estimate the effect of fragmentation on insect pollinators and consequences for the insect-reliant plant species.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Environmental and Conservation Sciences
Publisher: CSIRO Publishing
Copyright: © 2020 CSIRO
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