Journal Article

Non-additive effects of pollen limitation and self-incompatibility reduce plant reproductive success and population viability

Andrew G. Young, Linda M. Broadhurst and Peter H. Thrall

in Annals of Botany

Published on behalf of The Annals of Botany Company

Volume 109, issue 3, pages 643-653
Published in print February 2012 | ISSN: 0305-7364
Published online December 2011 | e-ISSN: 1095-8290 | DOI:
Non-additive effects of pollen limitation and self-incompatibility reduce plant reproductive success and population viability

More Like This

Show all results sharing these subjects:

  • Ecology and Conservation
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Plant Sciences and Forestry


Show Summary Details


Background and Aims

Mating system is a primary determinant of the ecological and evolutionary dynamics of wild plant populations. Pollen limitation and loss of self-incompatibility genotypes can both act independently to reduce seed set and these effects are commonly observed in fragmented landscapes. This study used a simulation modelling approach to assess the interacting effects of these two processes on plant reproductive performance and population viability for a range of pollination likelihood, self-incompatibility systems and S-allele richness conditions.


A spatially explicit, individual-based, genetic and demographic simulation model parameterized to represent a generic self-incompatible, short-lived perennial herb was used to conduct simulation experiments in which pollination probability, self-incompatibility type (gametophytic and sporophytic) and S-allele richness were systematically varied in combination to assess their independent and interacting effects on the demographic response variables of mate availability, seed set, population size and population persistence.

Key Results

Joint effects of reduced pollination probability and low S-allele richness were greater than independent effects for all demographic response variables except population persistence under high pollinator service (>50 %). At intermediate values of 15–25 % pollination probability, non-linear interactions with S-allele richness generated significant reductions in population performance beyond those expected by the simple additive effect of each independently. This was due to the impacts of reduced effective population size on the ability of populations to retain S alleles and maintain mate availability. Across a limited set of pollination and S-allele conditions (P = 0·15 and S = 20) populations with gametophytic SI showed reduced S-allele erosion relative to those with sporophytic SI, but this had limited effects on individual fecundity and translated into only modest increases in population persistence.


Interactions between pollen limitation and loss of S alleles have the potential to significantly reduce the viability of populations of a few hundred plants. Population decline may occur more rapidly than expected when pollination probabilities drop below 25 % and S alleles are fewer than 20 due to non-additive interactions. These are likely to be common conditions experienced by plants in small populations in fragmented landscapes and are also those under which differences in response between gameptophytic and sporophtyic systems are observed.

Keywords: Mating system; pollinator limitation; self-incompatibility; population viability; simulation modelling; habitat fragmentation; plant demography

Journal Article.  6522 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Ecology and Conservation ; Evolutionary Biology ; Plant Sciences and Forestry

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.