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Effects of agriculture land use and fragmentation on genetics, demography and population persistence of the rare Primula vulgaris, and its implications for conservation

Journal Contribution - Journal Article

We examined the ecological, demographic and genetic consequences of agricultural land use practices and fragmentation on the long-term persistence of P. vulgaris (primrose), a rare and declining perennial herb in Flanders (Belgium). Analysis of the demographic performance of all remaining populations (n = 89) revealed a large proportion of inviable populations characterized by small population sizes and limited seedling recruitment. To investigate to what extent demographic performance was related to genetic variation and structure, allelic richness, observed and expected heterozygosity, Wright's inbreeding coefficient and FST were compared among senescent, stable and dynamic populations. No difference in any of these measures among population types was found, indicating that factors other than genetic diversity and structure were involved in determining demographic performance of primrose populations. No significant relationship was found between individual multilocus heterozygosity and fitness components related to adult plant size and number of flowers. Reproductive success was positively correlated to population size and showed no temporal variation over two consecutive years. Examination of recruitment success (seedling survival) in natural and experimental populations revealed that habitat quality had a large impact on recruitment success. In particular, populations along arable fields showed decreased recruitment rates compared to populations located in forests or along grasslands, especially in the absence of disturbance. Our results indicate that P. vulgaris is vulnerable to habitat deterioration associated with changes in land use. They also suggest that the quality of the surrounding landscape matrix may be more important than within-habitat characteristics, demographic or genetic traits in determining population viability. Integration of the results of this study with previously reported data on historical changes in the distribution range of primrose in Flanders suggests that under prevailing environmental conditions there will be a continuous decline in both the number and size of populations.
Journal: Belgian Journal of Botany
ISSN: 0778-4031
Issue: 1
Volume: 136
Pages: 5-22
Number of pages: 18
Publication year:2003
  • Scopus Id: 0141725536