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AID: 0090910980
Reproductive Ecology of the Endangered Alpine Species Eryngium alpinum L. (Apiaceae): Phenology, Gene Dispersal and Reproductive Success
Annals of Botany, . V. 93. No. 6. P. 711721 (11).
Background and aims. Eryngium alpinum (Apiaceae) is an endangered perennial, characteristic of the Alpine flora. Because the breeding system influences both demographic (reproductive success) and genetic (inbreeding depression, evolutionary potential) parameters that are crucial for population maintenance, the reproductive ecology of E. alpinum was investigated. Specifically, the aims of the study were (1) to determine the factors (resources and/or pollen) limiting plant fitness; and (2) to assess the potential for gene flow within a plant, within a patch of plants, and across a whole valley where the species is abundant.

Methods Field experiments were performed at two sites in the Fournel valley, France, over three consecutive years. Studies included a phenological survey, observations of pollinators (visitation rates and flight distances), dispersal of a fluorescent powder used as a pollen analogue, the use of seed traps, determination of the pollen/ovule ratio, and an experiment to test whether seed production is limited by pollen and/or by resources. Key results. E. alpinum is pollinated by generalist pollinators, visitation rates are very high and seed set is resource-rather than pollen-limited. The short flights of honeybees indicate a high potential for geitonogamy, and low pollen and seed dispersals suggest strong genetic structure over short distances. These results are interpreted in the light of previous molecular markers studies, which, in contrast, showed complete outcrossing and high genetic homogeneity.

Conclusions. The study highlights the usefulness of adopting several complementary approaches to understanding the dynamic processes at work in natural populations, and the conservation implications for E. alpinum are emphasized. Although the studied populations do not seem threatened in the near future, long-term monitoring appears necessary to assess the impact of habitat fragmentation. Moreover, this study provides useful baseline data for future investigations in smaller and more isolated populations.

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