Demographic stochasticity in small remnant populations of the declining distylous plant Primula veris

Basic and Applied Ecology

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We studied ecological consequences of distyly for the declining perennial plant Primula veris in the Swiss Jura. Distyly favours cross-fertilization and avoids inbreeding, but may lead to pollen limitation and reduced reproduction if morph frequencies deviate from 50 %. Disassortative mating is promoted by the reciprocal position of stigmas and anthers in the two morphs (pin and thrum) and by intramorph incompatibility and should result in equal frequencies of morphs at equilibrium. However, deviations could arise because of demographic stochasticity, the lower intra-morph incompatibility of the pin morph, and niche differentiation between morphs. Demographic stochasticity should result in symmetric deviations from an even morph frequency among populations and in increased deviations with decreasing population size. If crosses between pins occurred, these would only generate pins, and this could result in a pin-bias of morph frequencies in general and in small populations in particular. If the morphs have different niches, morph frequencies should be related to environmental factors, morphs might be spatially segregated, and morphological differences between morphs would be expected. We tested these hypotheses in the declining distylous P. veris. We studied morph frequencies in relation to environmental conditions and population size, spatial segregation in field populations, morphological differences between morphs, and growth responses to nutrient addition. Morph frequencies in 76 populations with 1 - 80000 flowering plants fluctuated symmetrically about 50 %. Deviations from 50 % were much larger in small populations, and sixof the smallest populations had lost one morph altogether. In contrast, morph frequencies were neither related to population size nor to 17 measures of environmental conditions. We found no spatial segregation or morphological differences in the field or in the common garden. The results suggest that demographic stochasticity caused deviations of the morph ratiofrom unity in small populations. Demographic stochasticity was probably caused by the random elimination of plants during the fragmentation of formerly large continuous populations. Biased morph frequencies may be one of the reasons for the strongly reduced reproduction in small populations of P. veris.

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Demographic stochasticity in small remnant populations of the declining distylous plant Primula veris
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Basic and Applied Ecology
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Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
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Basic and Applied Ecology
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