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Influence of Habitat Patchiness on Genetic Diversity and Spatial Structure of a Serpentine Endemic Plant

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Conservation of rare plant species often involves small, local populations dispersed within apparently suitable habitat. We used enzyme electrophoresis to study genotypic diversity in 32 populations of Calystegia collina, a self-incompatible clonal plant endemic to serpentine substrate in northern California's Coast Range. Genotypic diversity within a population was a good predictor of seed set by randomly marked flowers. Ramets from the most abundant genotypes in a population were most likely to produce flowers, but flowers from abundant genotypes were less likely to produce seed capsules than were flowers from rarer genotypes. These results are consistent with previous findings that reproductive success in C. collina is limited by the availability of compatible pollen. On small serpentine outcrops supporting only one or two populations, C. collina did not show reduced genotypic diversity or heterozygosity compared with populations on large outcrops supporting many populations. Instead, genotypic diversity and outcrop size had strong but independent influences on reproductive success. Although large serpentine outcrops contain more populations and provide better conditions for flower and seed production, significant diversity of unique genotypes clearly exists in isolated serpentine outcrops. Our findings suggest that plant conservation strategies must take into account the natural distribution of populations. The effects of habitat fragmentation on C. collina and other plant species that occur naturally in small, discrete patches may be unlike those that have been documented in more recently fragmented species.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Environmental Science and Policy, One Shields Avenue, University of California Davis, Davis, CA 95616–8576, U.S.A. 2: Department of Botany and Genetics, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602, U.S.A.

Publication date: April 1, 2000

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