Reproductive assurance through self-fertilization does not vary with population size in the alien invasive plant Datura stramonium
van Kleunen, M.
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Autonomous self-fertilization is suggested to be associated with invasiveness in plants because it offers reproductive assurance when there is a shortage of suitable mates or pollinators. Given that shortages of mates and pollinators are a common cause of Allee effects in small plant populations, we predict that the benefits of self-fertilization in terms of reproductive assurance should be greatest in small populations. We tested this idea for the invasive herb Datura stramonium , a self-fertilizing species which is also cross-pollinated to some extent by insects (mainly hawkmoths and honeybees). During two consecutive years, we studied 20 and 55 populations, respectively, of different sizes. Untreated flowers of D. stramonium showed high levels of fruit and seed set in all populations studied. Although, fruit and seed set were generally reduced by about 90% in flowers in which selffertilization was prevented through emasculation, this effect did not vary according to population size. By using a natural color (anthocyanin) dimorphism in 12 populations, we showed that the average outcrossing rate was low (1.3%) and that there was no relationship between outcrossing rate and population size. Pollen removal from flowers also did not vary according to population size, suggesting that the pollinator visitation rate is not lower in small populations. However, decreasing deviations of observed from expected fruit set with population size imply that small populations may have an increased chance of extinction due to demographic stochasticity. Overall, our results suggest that reproductive assurance through self-fertilization in invasive plants may be important for all stages of population establishment, and not just in the founder population.
- RESEARCH: Johnson S