A piece of the puzzle: a method for comparing pollination quality and quantity across multiple species and reproductive events
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- •Understanding how pollination affects plant reproductive success and how changes in pollination service affect plant populations, communities and ecosystems is of increasing concern. Yet supplemental hand-pollination traditionally used to assess pollen limitation is prohibitive for large-scale comparative work. Moreover, it does not differentiate between quality and quantity aspects of pollen limitation, and it may suffer from confounds of post-pollination processes such as resource availability to fill seeds.
- •Here, we highlight pollen tubes as the functional link between pollen arrival and seed production and suggest that consideration of pollen tubes leads to a better depiction of limitation at the pre-zygotic (pollination) phase of sexual reproduction.
- •We assessed the rigor of piecewise regression to analyze the relationship between the numbers of pollen grains and pollen tubes observed in nonmanipulated wilted flowers. We illustrate how parameters obtained from this analysis provide quantitative insight into the relative relevance of the quantity and quality of pollen receipt in limiting natural pollination success, and can facilitate comparisons among data sets.
- •This nonmanipulative method opens up new opportunities for rigorous assessment of the relative importance of the quantity and quality of pollination in limiting plant reproduction, especially from a community-wide perspective.