Determining whether seed production is pollen limited has been an area of intensive empirical study over the last two decades. Yet current evidence does not allow satisfactory assessment of the causes or consequences of pollen limitation. Here, we critically evaluate existing theory and issues concerning pollen limitation. Our main conclusion is that a change in approach is needed to determine whether pollen limitation reflects random fluctuations around a pollen-resource equilibrium, an adaptation to stochastic pollination environments, or a chronic syndrome caused by an environmental perturbation. We formalize and extend D. Haig and M. Westoby's conceptual model, and illustrate its use in guiding research on the evolutionary consequences of pollen limitation, i.e., whether plants evolve or have evolved to ameliorate pollen limitation. This synthesis also reveals that we are only beginning to understand when and how pollen limitation at the plant level translates into effects on plant population dynamics. We highlight the need for both theoretical and empirical approaches to gain a deeper understanding of the importance of life-history characters, Allee effects, and environmental perturbations in population declines mediated by pollen limitation. Lastly, our synthesis identifies a critical need for research on potential effects of pollen limitation at the community and ecosystem levels.
Quantifying the extent to which seed production is limited by the availability of pollen has been an area of intensive empirical study over the past few decades. Whereas theory predicts that pollen augmentation should not increase seed production, numerous empirical studies report significant and strong pollen limitation. Here, we use a variety of approaches to examine the correlates of pollen limitation in an effort to understand its occurrence and importance in plant evolutionary ecology. In particular, we examine the role of recent ecological perturbations in influencing pollen limitation and discuss the relation between pollen limitation and plant traits. We find that the magnitude of pollen limitation observed in natural populations depends on both historical constraints and contemporary ecological factors.
Hermaphroditic individuals can produce both selfed and outcrossed progeny, termed mixed mating. General theory predicts that mixed-mating populations should evolve quickly toward high rates of selfing, driven by rapid purging of genetic load and loss of inbreeding depression (ID), but the substantial number of mixed-mating species observed in nature calls this prediction into question. Lower average ID reported for selfing than for outcrossing populations is consistent with purging and suggests that mixed-mating taxa in evolutionary transition will have intermediate ID. We compared the magnitude of ID from published estimates for highly selfing (r > 0.8), mixed-mating (0.2 ≤ r ≥ 0.8), and highly outcrossing (r < 0.2) plant populations across 58 species. We found that mixed-mating and outcrossing taxa have equally high average lifetime ID (δ = 0.58 and 0.54, respectively) and similar ID at each of four life-cycle stages. These results are not consistent with evolution toward selfing in most mixed-mating taxa. We suggest that prevention of purging by selective interference could explain stable mixed mating in many natural populations. We identify critical gaps in the empirical data on ID and outline key approaches to filling them.
Summary• Reduced allocation to structures for pollinator attraction is predicted in selfing species. We explored the association between outcrossing and floral display in a broad sample of angiosperms. We used the demonstrated relationship to test for bias against selfing species in the outcrossing rate distribution, the shape of which has relevance for the stability of mixed mating.• Relationships between outcrossing rate, flower size, flower number and floral display, measured as the product of flower size and number, were examined using phylogenetically independent contrasts. The distribution of floral displays among species in the outcrossing rate database was compared with that of a random sample of the same flora.• The outcrossing rate was positively associated with the product of flower size and number; individually, components of display were less strongly related to outcrossing. Compared with a random sample, species in the outcrossing rate database showed a deficit of small floral display sizes.• We found broad support for reduced allocation to attraction in selfing species. We suggest that covariation between mating systems and total allocation to attraction can explain the deviation from expected trade-offs between flower size and number. Our results suggest a bias against estimating outcrossing rates in the lower half of the distribution, but not specifically against highly selfing species.
Using both multivariate and univariate regression techniques, I measured selection acting through female reproductive success in two hermaphroditic species with precise pollen placement but different pollinators: hummingbird‐pollinated Lobelia cardinalis and bumblebee‐pollinated L. siphilitica. Six traits were analyzed in two populations of L. cardinalis and one population of L. siphilitica: flower number, mean number of flowers open per day, inflorescence height, number of days in flower, median‐flower date and nectar‐stigma distance. In another study it was found that female reproductive success in one population of L. cardinalis was much less pollen limited than in the other two populations, and it was therefore expected that selection of female reproductive traits in this population would be weaker. In the univariate analyses correlations caused nearly all traits to have significant directional selection coefficients. However, in the multivariate analyses no traits in L. siphilitica experienced directional or quadratic selection. Selection acted differently in the two L. cardinalis populations. The less pollen‐limited population experienced positive directional selection on flower number and median‐flower date, while in the other L. cardinalis population there was positive directional selection on flower number and nectar‐stigma distance and both positive directional and positive quadratic selection on height. The functional significance of floral traits in these two species and the probable effect of increased sample sizes are discussed.
Inbreeding depression, or the decreased fitness of progeny derived from self-fertilization as compared to outcrossing, is thought to be the most general factor affecting the evolution of selffertilization in plants. Nevertheless, data on inbreeding depression in fitness characters are almost nonexistent for perennials observed in their natural environments. In this study I measured inbreeding depression in both survival and fertility in two sympatric, short-lived, perennial herbs: hummingbird-pollinated Lobelia cardinalis (two populations) and bumblebee-pollinated L. siphilitica (one population), Crosses were performed by hand in the field, and seedlings germinated in the greenhouse. Levels of inbreeding depression were determined for one year in the greenhouse and for two to three years for seedlings transplanted back to the natural environment. Fertility was measured as flower number, which is highly correlated with seed production under natural conditions in these populations. Inbreeding depression was assessed in three ways: 1) survival and fertility within the different age intervals; 2) cumulative survival from the seed stage through each age interval; and 3) net fertility, or the expected fertility of a seed at different ages. Net fertility is a comprehensive measure offitness combining survival and flower number, In all three populations, selfing had nonsignificant effects on the number and size of seeds. Lobelia siphilitica and one population of L. cardinalis exhibited significant levels of inbreeding depression between seed maturation and germination, excluding the consideration of possible differences in dormancy or longterm viability in the soil. There was no inbreeding depression in subsequent survival in the greenhouse in any population. In the field, significant survival differences between selfed and outcrossed progeny occurred only in two years and in only one population of L. cardinalis. For both survival and fertility there was little evidence for the expected differences among families in inbreeding depression. Compared to survival, inbreeding depression in fertility (flower number) tended to be much higher. By first-year flower production, the combined effects on survival and flower number caused inbreeding depression in net fertility to reach 54%, 34% and 71% for L. siphilitica and the two populations of L. cardinalis. By the end of the second year of flowering in the field, inbreeding depression in net fertility was 53% for L. siphilitica and 54% for one population of L. cardinalis. For the other population of L. cardinalis, these values were 76% through the second year of flowering and 83% through the third year. Such high levels of inbreeding depression should strongly influence selection on those characters affecting self-fertilization rates in these two species.
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