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Effects of seed bank disturbance on the fine-scale genetic structure of populations of the rare shrub Grevillea macleayana.
Dispersal in most plants is mediated by the movement of seeds and pollen, which move genes across the landscape differently. Grevillea macleayana is a rare, fire-dependent Australian shrub with large seeds lacking adaptations for dispersal; yet it produces inflorescences adapted to pollination by highly mobile vertebrates (eg birds). Interpreting fine-scale genetic structure in the light of these two processes is confounded by the recent imposition of anthropogenic disturbances with potentially contrasting genetic consequences: (1) the unusual foraging behaviour of exotic honeybees and 2. widespread disturbance of the soil-stored seedbank by road building and quarrying. To test for evidence of fine-scale genetic structure within G. macleayana populations and to test the prediction that such structure might be masked by disturbance of the seed bank, we sampled two sites in undisturbed habitat and compared their genetic structure with two sites that had been strongly affected by road building using a test for spatial autocorrelation of genotypes. High selfing levels inferred from genotypes at all four sites implies that pollen dispersal is limited. Consistent with this, we observed substantial spatial clustering of genes at 10 m or less in the two undisturbed populations and argue that this reflects the predicted effects of both high selfing levels and limited seed dispersal. In contrast, at the two sites disturbed by road building, spatial autocorrelation was weak. This suggests there has been mixing of the seed bank, counteracting the naturally low dispersal and elevated selfing due to honeybees. Pollination between near neighbours with reduced relatedness potentially has fitness consequences for G. macleayana in disturbed sites.
Pub Type(s)Comparative Study
Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't