Molecular ecology

Effects of tree architecture on pollen dispersal and mating patterns in Abies pinsapo Boiss. (Pinaceae).

PMID 25355046


Plant architecture is crucial to pollination and mating in wind-pollinated species. We investigated the effect of crown architecture on pollen dispersal, mating system and offspring quality, combining phenotypic and genotypic analyses in a low-density population of the endangered species Abies pinsapo. A total of 598 embryos from three relative crown height levels (bottom, middle and top) in five mother plants were genotyped using eleven nuclear microsatellite markers (nSSRs). Paternity analysis and mating system models were used to infer mating and pollen dispersal parameters. In addition, seeds were weighed (N = 16 110) and germinated (N = 736), and seedling vigour was measured to assess inbreeding depression. Overall, A. pinsapo shows a fat-tailed dispersal kernel, with an average pollen dispersal distance of 113-227 m, an immigration rate of 0.84-26.92%, and a number of effective pollen donors (Nep ) ranging between 3.5 and 11.9. We found an effect of tree height and relative crown height levels on mating parameters. A higher proportion of seeds with embryo (about 50%) and a higher rate of self-fertilization (about 60%) were found at the bottom level in comparison with the top level. Seed weight and seedling vigour are positively related. Nevertheless, no differences were found in seed weight or in seedling-related variables such as weight and length of aerial and subterranean parts among the different relative crown height levels, suggesting that seeds from the more strongly inbred bottom level are not affected by inbreeding depression. Our results point to vertical isotropy for outcross-pollen and they suggest that self-pollen may ensure fertilization when outcross-pollen is not available in low-density population.