Plant fecundity and pre-dispersal reproductive losses in a common and a rare Euphorbia species (Euphorbiaceae)

Mário Boieiro, Artur R.M. Serrano, Carla Rego, Xavier Espadaler

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Abstract

Comparative studies on the reproductive biology of closely related plant species have provided valuable information to understand the causes and consequences of common-rare differences with possible applications for the management of threatened populations. The magnitude and spatiotemporal variability of seed production and pre-dispersal reproductive losses were studied for 3 years in the rare endemic Euphorbia welwitschii and in its widespread congener E. characias. The factors responsible for a decrease in potential seed production in these species were the lack of a functional ovary in the cyathium, ovary and fruit abortion, seed predation by insects and seed abortion. In E. characias, the moth Acroclita subsequana was also responsible for minor reproductive losses. The proportion of male cyathia varied significantly between seasons, populations and species, being consistently higher in E. characias than in E. welwitschii. Reproductive losses that resulted in ovary, fruit and seed abortion affected mostly the endemic species and were heavier in the populations located near the sea due to local adverse climatic conditions. Seed predators inflicted higher reproductive losses to the endemic species than to its widespread congener and their impact was particularly heavy at Risco. The two Euphorbia species differed markedly in cyathia production, with E. welwitschii producing systematically a lower number of cyathia than its widespread congener and this, together with higher levels of ovary, fruit and seed abortion, seemed to be the main reasons for the low reproductive output of this rare species. © The Ecological Society of Japan 2009.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)447-456
JournalEcological Research
Volume25
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2010

Keywords

  • Andromonoecy
  • Fruit abortion
  • Plant rarity
  • Reproductive success
  • Seed predation

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