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Keywords:

  • Banksia sphaerocarpa;
  • fragmentation;
  • mating system;
  • pollen dispersal;
  • population shape

Abstract

Habitat fragmentation can significantly affect mating and pollen dispersal patterns in plant populations, although the differential effects of the various aspects of fragmentation are poorly understood. In this study, we used eight microsatellite loci to investigate the effect of fragmentation on the mating system and pollen dispersal within one large and eight small population remnants of Banksia sphaerocarpa var. caesia, a bird-pollinated shrub in the southern agricultural region of Western Australia. The large population had a much larger neighbourhood size and lower selfing rate, maternal pollen pool differentiation and within-plot mean pollen dispersal distance than the small populations. Outcrossing was consistently high and ranged from 85.7% ± 2.6 to 98.5% ± 0.9, and mating patterns suggested nearest-neighbour pollination. Pollen immigration into small populations ranged from 2.8% ± 1.8 to 16.5% ± 3.2. Using the small populations, we tested for correlations between various fragmentation variables and mating system and pollen dispersal parameters. We found significant negative linear relationships between population isolation and outcrossing rate; population shape and neighbourhood size; and conspecific density and mean pollen dispersal distance. There were significant positive linear relationships between population shape and pollen pool differentiation and between population size and number of different fathers per seed crop. Our results suggest that birds may use a series of fragmented populations as a vegetation corridor while foraging across the landscape and that population connectivity is a critical determinant of pollinator visitation. Our results also suggest that the effect of a linear population shape on the mating system and pollen dispersal is routinely underestimated.