Reproductive success and pollinator effectiveness differ in common and rare Persoonia species (Proteaceae)

Paul D. Rymer, Robert .J. Whelan, D.J. Ayre, Peter H. Weston, Kenneth G. Russell

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    In plants, understanding the interactions between breeding systems and pollination ecology may enable us to predict the impacts of rarity. We used a comparative approach to test whether rarity is associated with reproductive biology in two closely-related species pairs. This system has been recently altered by changes in fire regimes and the introduction of European honeybees. More than 35% of flowers matured fruits in the common species after natural-pollination compared to <20% of flowers in the rare species. All species were obligate outcrossers in each of the study populations, but only the two rare species were pollen-limited, having significantly lower fruit-set on open-pollinated flowers than those cross-pollinated by hand (mean ± SE; 0.18 ± 0.02 vs. 0.42 ± 0.05; p < 0.001). Native bees (Leioproctus species) and introduced honeybees (Apis mellifera) visited all species. The native bees visited fewer flowers within a plant and moved greater distances between plants while foraging than honeybees, so the native bees are expected to be more effective in promoting outcrossing. While honeybees were the most frequent visitors to flowers of all species, native bees made more visits to common than rare species (0.65 ± 0.20 vs. 0.20 ± 0.09). Our results suggest that the poorer reproductive success in rare Persoonia species is associated with lower pollinator effectiveness, which is exacerbated by frequent fires and introduced honeybees. If this is a causal relationship, this may increase the probability of extinction in populations of these species.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)521-532
    Number of pages12
    JournalBiological Conservation
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2005


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