Journal Article

The compounding effects of high pollen limitation, selfing rates and inbreeding depression leave a New Zealand tree with few viable offspring

Megan L. Van Etten, Jennifer A. Tate, Sandra H. Anderson, Dave Kelly, Jenny J. Ladley, Merilyn F. Merrett, Paul G. Peterson and Alastair W. Robertson

in Annals of Botany

Published on behalf of The Annals of Botany Company

Volume 116, issue 5, pages 833-843
Published in print October 2015 | ISSN: 0305-7364
Published online July 2015 | e-ISSN: 1095-8290 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/aob/mcv118
The compounding effects of high pollen limitation, selfing rates and inbreeding depression leave a New Zealand tree with few viable offspring

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Background and Aims Interactions between species are especially sensitive to environmental changes. The interaction between plants and pollinators is of particular interest given the potential current global decline in pollinators. Reduced pollinator services can be compensated for in some plant species by self-pollination. However, if inbreeding depression is high, selfed progeny could die prior to reaching adulthood, leading to cryptic recruitment failure.

Methods To examine this scenario, pollinator abundance, pollen limitation, selfing rates and inbreeding depression were examined in 12 populations of varying disturbance levels in Sophora microphylla (Fabaceae), an endemic New Zealand tree species.

Key Results High pollen limitation was found in all populations (average of 58 % reduction in seed production, nine populations), together with high selfing rates (61 % of offspring selfed, six populations) and high inbreeding depression (selfed offspring 86 % less fit, six populations). Pollen limitation was associated with lower visitation rates by the two endemic bird pollinators.

Conclusions The results suggest that for these populations, over half of the seeds produced are genetically doomed. This reduction in the fitness of progeny due to reduced pollinator service is probably important to population dynamics of other New Zealand species. More broadly, the results suggest that measures of seed production or seedling densities may be a gross overestimate of the effective offspring production. This could lead to cryptic recruitment failure, i.e. a decline in successful reproduction despite high progeny production. Given the global extent of pollinator declines, cryptic recruitment failure may be widespread.

Keywords: Cryptic recruitment failure; inbreeding depression; Kowhai; mating system; Meliphagidae; pollen limitation; pollinator decline; reproductive ecology; Sophora microphylla

Journal Article.  7757 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Plant Reproduction and Propagation

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