Life history mediates mate limitation and population viability in self-incompatible plant species

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Abstract

Genetically controlled self-incompatibility systems represent links between genetic diversity and plant demography with the potential to directly impact on population dynamics. We use an individual-based spatial simulation to investigate the demographic and genetic consequences of different self-incompatibility systems for plants that vary in reproductive capacity and lifespan. The results support the idea that, in the absence of inbreeding effects, populations of self-incompatible species will often be smaller and less viable than self-compatible species, particularly for shorter-lived organisms or where potential fecundity is low. At high ovule production and low mortality, self-incompatible and self-compatible species are demographically similar, thus self-incompatibility does not automatically lead to reduced mate availability or population viability. Overall, sporophytic codominant self-incompatibility was more limiting than gametophytic or sporophytic dominant systems, which generally behaved in a similar fashion. Under a narrow range of conditions, the sporophytic dominant system maintained marginally greater mate availability owing to the production of S locus homozygotes. While self-incompatibility reduces population size and persistence for a broad range of conditions, the actual number of S alleles, beyond that required for reproduction, is important for only a subset of life histories. For these situations, results suggest that addition of new S alleles may result in significant demographic rescue.

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