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Effects of inbreeding and pollen donor provenance and diversity on offspring performance under environmental stress in the rare plant Cochlearia bavarica
Basic and Applied Ecology
Habitat degradation and loss can reduce size and genetic variability of natural populations, increasing individual homozygosity and average relatedness between individuals. While the resulting inbreeding depression may be reduced by natural selection under prevailing environmental conditions, it may increase again under environmental stress. To investigate the effect of environmental stress on offspring performance and the expression of inbreeding depression, we hand-pollinated maternal plants in small (< 50, n = 5) and large populations (> 400 flowering plants, n = 5) of the rare plant Cochlearia bavarica (Brassicaceae) and raised the offspring under experimentally manipulated water and light regimes (normal or reduced supply). In addition to considering natural variation in inbreeding levels due to population size, we manipulated pollen donor provenance and diversity. Maternal plants were pollinated with nine donors from a different population or with one or nine donors from the same population. One further inflorescence of each maternal plant was exposed to free pollination. Offspring growth and survival were monitored over 300 days. Offspring performance varied significantly among populations and maternal plants. Environmental stress interacted significantly with these factors. However, there was no general indication that offspring from small populations were more negatively affected. In seven out of ten populations, offspring derived from between-population pollination performed better than offspring derived from within-population pollination. Also, in five out of ten populations, average offspring size was higher after within-population pollination with nine than after pollination with one pollen donor. These results suggest low genetic diversity within C. bavarica populations, both smaller and larger ones. Interactions between environmental stress and pollination treatment indicated that using pollen donors from outside a population or increasing the number of pollen donors can reduce inbreeding depression, but that this beneficial effect is impaired under stressful conditions.
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