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Comprehensive population viability study of a rare endemic shrub from the high mountain zone of the Canary Islands and its conservation implications

AuthorsMarrero, Manuel V.; Oostermeijer, Gerard; Nogales, Manuel ; Van Hengstum, Thomas; Saro, Isabel; Carqué, Eduardo; Sosa, Pedro A.; Bañares, Ángel
KeywordsEndemic plant
Bencomia exstipulata
Population dynamics
Breeding system
Conservation biology
Issue DateFeb-2019
CitationJournal for Nature Conservation 47: 65-76 (2019)
AbstractOceanic island ecosystems harbour many endemic plant and animal species, which are often threatened because they have only a few small populations. Many factors contribute to the biological viability of such populations, such as demography and population dynamics, breeding system and pollination ecology, seed dispersal and genetic variation. In a collaborative project, all these factors were studied in the rare endemic, predominantly monoecious shrub Bencomia exstipulata Svent. (Rosaceae), which grows exclusively in the national parks of El Teide (Tenerife) and La Caldera de Taburiente (La Palma). Demography was monitored through annual censuses of individual plants in a natural and an augmented population on Tenerife. The breeding system and reproductive success were studied through bagging and pollination experiments, and insect visitation censuses. Seed dispersal by animals was assessed using cafetaria experiments. With matrix projection models and stochastic simulations, we show that the Tenerife population was demographically stable. This was largely explainable by the high survival of adult individuals. Despite frequent germination, successful seedling recruitment was very rare. Male and female flowers occurred in separate inflorescences within individuals, although some inflorescences were mixed and some shrubs were entirely male or female. Despite frequent visits by honeybees, the species is predominantly wind pollinated. Insect-proof bags reduced seed set by 12.5%, and pollen-proof bags by 44%. Large quantities of airborne pollen were detected on unbagged sticky microscope slides, this was 56% reduced by insect-proof and 96% by pollen-proof bags. Hence, some self-pollination also seems to occur. Cafetaria experiments showed that the local lizards (Gallotia galloti Oudart) readily eat the fruits and that the seeds pass through their intestines unharmed and germinable. Since other dispersal vectors are unknown, saurochory seems the most likely mode of dispersal. Our study strongly suggests that the population of B. exstipulata on Tenerife is viable, and that there are no significant threats associated with its breeding system, pollination or seed dispersal. To alleviate the natural extinction risk typical of narrow endemics, five main conservation measures are proposed.
Publisher version (URL)https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jnc.2018.11.003
Identifiersdoi: 10.1016/j.jnc.2018.11.003
issn: 1617-1381
Appears in Collections:(IPNA) Artículos
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