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Keywords:

  • Allee effects;
  • density;
  • fragmentation;
  • invasive species;
  • mutualisms;
  • pollination;
  • seed dispersal;
  • seed production;
  • reproductive success

ABSTRACT

The ecological significance of spacing among plants in contributing to the maintenance of species richness, particularly in tropical forests, has received considerable attention that has largely focussed on distance - and density-dependent seed and seedling mortality. More recently it has become apparent that plant spacing is also relevant to pollination, which often constrains seed production. While seed and seedling survival is reduced at high conspecific densities, pollination success, by contrast, is positively correlated to local conspecific density. Distance-dependent mechanisms acting on pollination and seed production have now been described for a variety of plants, with relatively isolated plants or fragmented populations generally suffering reduced fecundity due to pollen limitation. Yet there is considerable variability in the vulnerability of plant species to pollination failure, which may be a function of breeding system, life history, the pollination vector, the degree of specialisation among plants and their pollinators, and other indirect effects of habitat change acting on plants or pollinators. As reduced tree densities and population fragmentation are common outcomes of anthropogenically altered landscapes, understanding how pollination processes are affected in such degraded landscapes can inform effective conservation and management of remaining natural areas.