Habitat destruction is the main cause for the biodiversity crisis. Surviving populations are often fragmented, i.e., small and isolated from each other. Reproduction of plants in small populations is often reduced, and this has been attributed to inbreeding depression, reduced attractiveness for pollinators, and reduced habitat quality in small populations. Here we present data on the effects of fragmentation on the rare, self-compatible perennial herb Gentianopsis ciliata (Gentianaceae), a species with very small and presumably well-dispersed seeds. We studied the relationship between population size, plant size, and the number of flowers produced in 63 populations from 1996-1998. In one of the years, leaf and flower size and the number of seeds produced per fruit was studied in a subset of 25 populations. Plant size, flower size, and the number of seeds per fruit and per plant increased with population size, whereas leaf length and the number of flowers per plant did not. The effects of population size on reproduction and on flower size remained significant if the effects were adjusted for differences in plant size, indicating that they could not be explained by differences in habitat quality. The strongly reduced reproduction in small populations may be due to pollination limitation, while the reduced flower size could indicate genetic effects.
Additional publication details
Reduced fecundity in small populations of the rare plant Gentianopsis ciliate (Gentianaceae)