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Pollen limitation and Allee effect related to population size and sex ratio in the endangered Ottelia acuminata (Hydrocharitaceae): implications for conservation and reintroduction

Authors

  • J. Xia,

    1.  Key Laboratory of Aquatic Botany and Watershed Ecology, Wuhan Botanical Garden, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Wuhan, China
    2.  Engineering Research Centre for Protection and Utilization of Bioresource in Ethnic Area of Southern China, College of Life Sciences, South-Central University for Nationalities, Wuhan, China
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  • J. Lu,

    1.  Key Laboratory of Aquatic Botany and Watershed Ecology, Wuhan Botanical Garden, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Wuhan, China
    2.  Graduate School of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China
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  • Z. X. Wang,

    1.  Key Laboratory of Aquatic Botany and Watershed Ecology, Wuhan Botanical Garden, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Wuhan, China
    2.  Graduate School of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China
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  • B. B. Hao,

    1.  Key Laboratory of Aquatic Botany and Watershed Ecology, Wuhan Botanical Garden, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Wuhan, China
    2.  Graduate School of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China
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  • H. B. Wang,

    1.  Key Laboratory of Aquatic Botany and Watershed Ecology, Wuhan Botanical Garden, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Wuhan, China
    2.  Graduate School of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China
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  • G. H. Liu

    1.  Key Laboratory of Aquatic Botany and Watershed Ecology, Wuhan Botanical Garden, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Wuhan, China
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  • Editor
    A. Dafni

J. Xia & G. H. Liu, Key Laboratory of Aquatic Botany and Watershed Ecology, Wuhan Botanical Gardens, Wuhan 430074, China.
E-mail: meir_xj@wbgcas.cn, liugh@rose.whiob.ac.cn

Abstract

Small populations may suffer more severe pollen limitation and result in Allee effects. Sex ratio may also affect pollination and reproduction success in dioecious species, which is always overlooked when performing conservation and reintroduction tasks. In this study, we investigated whether and how population size and sex ratio affected pollen limitation and reproduction in the endangered Ottelia acuminata, a dioecious submerged species. We established experimental plots with increasing population size and male sex ratio. We observed insect visitation, estimated pollen limitation by hand-pollinations and counted fruit set and seed production per fruit. Fruit set and seed production decreased significantly in small populations due to pollinator scarcity and thus suffered more severe pollen limitation. Although frequently visited, female-biased larger populations also suffered severe pollen limitation due to few effective visits and insufficient pollen availability. Rising male ratio enhanced pollination service and hence reproduction. Unexpectedly, pollinator preferences did not cause reduced reproduction in male-biased populations because of high pollen availability. However, reproductive outputs showed more variability in severe male-biased populations. Our results revealed two component Allee effects in fruit set and seed production, mediated by pollen limitation in O. acuminata. Moreover, reproduction decreased significantly in larger female-biased populations, increasing the risk of an Allee effect.

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