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Population dynamics in Oxalis acetosella: the significance of sexual reproduction in a clonal, cleistogamous forest herb

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I studied demography in three populations of the clonal, cleistogamous herb Oxalis acetosella during three growing seasons, to assess the impact of seedling recruitment relative to ramet recruitment on its population dynamics. I followed each plant in permanent plots, and stage-classified it according to origin (sexually or vegetatively derived) and reproductive status. I calculated between-year transition probabilities, and sexual and vegetative fecundities, and used them in projection matrix analyses to simulate the development of populations and obtain the elasticity of each life-history event.

In general, non-flowering adults was the most numerous stage class and flowering new ramets the rarest, whereas the proportions of the other stage classes varied among populations and years. The negative correlation between plant density and survival was not very strong, and mortality seemed to be largely density-independent. Simulated population growth rates () indicated that one of the populations is declining and the other two are growing, although slowly. The highest elasticities were usually those of stasis in adult plants, whereas elasticities of other matrix entries were low and highly variable.  was positively correlated with the elasticities of seedling production and survival but negatively correlated with the elasticity of adult survival, indicating that seedling recruitment is more favourable for population growth than is adult stasis. There were no correlations between  on the one hand and the elasticities of ramet production and survival on the other.

The results suggest that recruitment from seedlings is important for the growth and long-term maintenance of O. acetosella populations, as a complement to the rather low vegetative propagation. In this context cleistogamy is an adaptive strategy, maximizing total seed output.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2002

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