Seed germination tests of the parasitic perennial Viscum album (Viscaceae) from fragmented habitats at the northern edge of its range
Authors: Stanton, Sharon; Torrado, Stefanie Boavida; Honnay, Olivier
Source: Plant Ecology and Evolution, Volume 143, Number 2, July 2010 , pp. 113-118(6)
Abstract:Background and aims – Despite being a rather common species throughout Europe, little is known about the effects of habitat change on the fitness of Viscum album. We expected to find a reduction in fitness in V. album populations growing in fragmented habitats resulting from a loss of genetic diversity through increased inbreeding.
Methods – We studied seed germination as a measure of fitness among sixteen Belgian V. album populations varying in size and degree of isolation to investigate the fitness consequences of habitat fragmentation. Populations were sampled from two landscapes differing in their degree of habitat fragmentation and V. album population characteristics. We also compared germination percentages of three populations at three different temperatures (5, 20, 30°C) to examine the potential effects of climate change on V. album regeneration in northern Europe.
Key results – Germination percentages (at 20°C) were high (69–100%) and we found no evidence of relationships between germination and population size, density, or area. There was no direct relationship between germination percentage and population isolation within study regions, but connectivity among populations appears to be important. Samples from the more fragmented habitat showed a negative correlation between germination percentage and the proportion of females, suggesting reduced mate availability and pollination resulting from increased isolation of populations. There was no significant difference in mean germination percentages among the three temperature treatments, but the high temperature samples (30°C) exhibited the highest variation in germination success.
Conclusion – Our results suggest that V. album has evolved high germination success to compensate for limited success in establishing on a host plant. Successful germination under a wide range of environmental conditions is expected to increase the likelihood of establishing on host plants, possibly helping V. album respond to changes in climate.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: 2010-07-01
Plant Ecology and Evolution (a continuation of Belgian Journal of Botany, incorporating Systematics and Geography of Plants) is an international journal devoted to ecology, phylogenetics and systematics of all 'plant' groups in the traditional sense (including algae, cyanobacteria, fungi, myxomycetes), also covering related fields such as comparative and developmental morphology, conservation biology, ecophysiology, evolution, phytogeography, pollen and spores, population biology, and vegetation studies. It is published by the Royal Botanical Society of Belgium and the National Botanic Garden of Belgium and contains original research papers, review articles, checklists, short communications and book reviews.
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