Ecology and Evolution
School of Science/Centre for Ecosystem Management
- Fragmentation of natural vegetation is currently one of the largest threats to plant populations and their interactions with pollinators. Plant reproductive susceptibility to habitat fragmentation has been investigated in many species; however, the response of wild mass‐flowering species is poorly known, with research limited to mainly boreal plant species.
- Here, we studied twelve remnant populations of the threatened mass‐flowering shrub Conospermum undulatum in the southwest Australian biodiversity hotspot, each presenting different population size, level of isolation, and floral display. We assessed the impact of fragmentation on (a) fruit and seed production; and (b) seed germination. To gain a deeper understanding of factors influencing the reproductive success of C. undulatum, we performed pollinator exclusion and self‐pollination treatments to experimentally assess the mating system of this threatened shrub.
- We found C. undulatumto be strictly self‐incompatible and totally reliant on pollinators visiting with an outcrossed pollen load to complete the reproductive cycle. Further, we found that fruit production dropped from 35% to
- Synthesis and applications. Our results demonstrate the important relationship between pollinators and floral morphology in plants of southwest Australia that have coevolved with native pollinators and developed characteristic flower morphologies over long time frames. Indeed, due to its characteristic pollination mechanism, the self‐incompatible C. undulatum can only rely on specialized native pollinators for pollen flow and cannot rely on its mass‐flowering trait to attract generalist pollinators from coflowering species; neither can it compensate for the lack of visitors by promoting geitonogamy. Consequently, fragmentation has a significant effect on the reproductive output of C. undulatum, and size, isolation, and floral display of populations are important factors to be considered when planning conservation actions for the species.
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