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Limited pollen dispersal, small genetic neighborhoods, and biparental inbreeding in Vallisneria americana.
Lloyd, MW; Tumas, HR; Neel, MC
Pollen dispersal is a key process that influences ecological and evolutionary dynamics of plant populations by facilitating sexual reproduction and gene flow. Habitat loss and fragmentation have the potential to reduce pollen dispersal within and among habitat patches. We assessed aquatic pollen dispersal and mating system characteristics in Vallisneria americana - a water-pollinated plant with a distribution that has been reduced from historic levels. We examined pollen neighborhood size, biparental inbreeding, and pollen dispersal, based on seed paternity using the indirect paternity method KinDist, from samples of 18-39 mothers and 14-20 progeny per mother from three sites across 2 years. On average, fruits contained seeds sired by seven fathers. We found significant biparental inbreeding and limited pollen dispersal distances (0.8-4.34 m). However, in a number of cases, correlated paternity did not decline with distance, and dispersal could not be reliably estimated. Frequent pollen dispersal is not expected among patches, and even within patches, gene flow via pollen will be limited. Limited pollen dispersal establishes genetic neighborhoods, which, unless overcome by seed and propagule dispersal, will lead to genetic differentiation even in a continuous population. Unless loss and fragmentation drive populations to extreme sex bias, local pollen dispersal is likely to be unaffected by habitat loss and fragmentation per se because the spatial scale of patch isolation already exceeds pollen dispersal distances. Therefore, managing specifically for pollen connectivity is only relevant over very short distances.
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