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Keywords:

  • mating system;
  • Pinus sylvestris;
  • pollen dispersal;
  • population size

Abstract

Outcrossing rate, the rates of ovule and seed abortion, and levels of correlated paternity were estimated in a small population of Pinus sylvestris, a predominantly outcrossing conifer, and were compared with estimates from two widely dispersed woodlands of the same species, showing a range of densities. On average, seed trees of the small population showed an eight-fold higher selfing rate (25 vs. 3%) and a 100-fold greater incidence of correlated paternity (19.6 vs. 0.2%) than did trees from the large populations. No evidence was found of pollen limitation within the remnant stand, as suggested by ovule abortion rates. Investigation of the mating patterns in the small population, based on the unambiguous genealogy of 778 open-pollinated seeds, showed a large departure from random mating. Only 8% of the possible mating pairs within the stand were observed. Correlated paternity rate within a maternal sibship was negatively associated (rs = −0.398, P < 0.050) with the distance to the nearest neighbour, and shared paternity among maternal sibships was negatively correlated (rs = −0.704, P < 0.001) with the distance between seed trees. Numerical simulations, based on the estimated individual pollen dispersal kernel, suggest that restricted dispersal might have been the key factor affecting mating patterns in the small population and, together with low population density, may account for the observed mating system variation between the small and the large populations. The results of this study show that a severe size reduction may substantially affect the mating system of a wind-pollinated, typically outcrossed plant species.