Prolonged clonal growth: escape route or route to extinction?
Article first published online: 21 DEC 2004
Volume 108, Issue 2, pages 427–432, February 2005
How to Cite
Honnay, O. and Bossuyt, B. (2005), Prolonged clonal growth: escape route or route to extinction?. Oikos, 108: 427–432. doi: 10.1111/j.0030-1299.2005.13569.x
- Issue published online: 21 DEC 2004
- Article first published online: 21 DEC 2004
Many plant species have the capability to reproduce sexually as well as clonally. The balance between clonal reproduction and sexual reproduction varies between different species. It was estimated that 66.5% of all central European flora may form independent but genetically identical daughter plants. Also within species there is great variation in the ratio clonal/sexual reproduction. Clonal reproduction can be considered as an alternative life cycle loop that allows persistence of a species in the absence of the ability to complete the normal life cycle (i.e. seed production, germination and recruitment). Plant populations exhibiting prolonged clonal growth have been referred to as ‘remnant populations’. A remnant population in general is defined as “a population capable of persistence during extended time periods despite a negative population growth rate (λ<1) due to longlived life stages and life cycles, including loops, that allow population persistence without completion of the whole life cycle”. Here we argue that prolonged and nearly exclusive clonal growth through environmental suppression of sexual reproduction can ultimately lead to local sexual extinction and to monoclonal populations of a species, and that this may imply significant consequences for population viability. Especially obligate or mainly outcrossing clonal plant species may be vulnerable for sexual extinction. We argue that the consequences of reduced sexual recruitment in clonally propagating plants may be understudied and underestimated and that a re-evaluation of current ideas on clonality may be necessary.