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Population Persistence and Offspring Fitness in the Rare Bellflower Campanula cervicaria in Relation to Population Size and Habitat Quality

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Data from several animal species and a few plant species indicate that small populations face an elevated risk of extinction. Plants are still underrepresented in these studies concerning the relation between population size and persistence. We studied the effect of population size on persistence among natural populations of the rare bellflower Campanula cervicaria in Finland. We monitored 52 bellflower populations for 8 years and found that the mean population size decreased from 24 to 14 during this period. Small populations with ≤5 individuals were more prone to losing all fertile plants than were larger ones. Reduction in population size was nevertheless unrelated to the degree of population isolation, measured as the distance to the nearest known population. To test the hypothesis that offspring fitness is lower in small populations, we germinated bellflower seeds from different-sized populations in a laboratory and found that seed germination ability was independent of population size. The seedlings raised from seeds of small populations grew faster than those taken from larger populations. Population size was negatively related to the amount of shade in the habitats. In conclusion, decreasing population sizes of C. cervicaria seemed not to be caused by lowered germination ability or growth rate in small populations; rather, population size reductions appeared to be due to closing of vegetation in the habitats.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Biological and Environmental Science, University of Jyväskylä, P.O Box 35 (YAC), FIN-40351 Jyväskylä, Finland

Publication date: October 1, 2000

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