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Keywords:

  • Abiotic factors;
  • ageing;
  • biotic factors;
  • cohort;
  • density dependence;
  • Mediterranean plants;
  • mortality;
  • plant demography

Abstract

Density-independent and density-dependent processes affect plant mortality. Although less well understood, age-specific mortality can also play an important role in plant mortality. The goal of this study was to analyse several factors accounting for mortality in the Mediterranean short-lived perennial herb Lobularia maritima. We followed three cohorts of plants (from emergence to death) during 4 years in field conditions. We collected data on plant mortality of the effect of biotic agents (moth larvae and mycoplasma-like organisms, MLOs) and environmental variables. We also estimated density-dependent relationships affecting the fate of seedlings and adults. Results show that cohorts differed in their survival curves and ageing significantly increased mortality risk. Seedling mortality was density-dependent whereas adult mortality was not affected by density. MLO infection led to higher plant mortality whereas moth larvae attack did not affect plant mortality. In general, seedlings and adult plants experienced the highest mortality events in summer. We found, however, weak relationships between weather records and plant mortality. Age and size structures were not correlated. Overall, this study provides a comprehensive review of age-specific, density-dependent and density-independent factors that account for mortality of L. maritima plants throughout their life cycle in field conditions, highlighting the fact that age is an important factor in determining plant population dynamics.