How widespread are recruitment bottlenecks in fragmented populations of the savanna tree Banksia marginata (Proteaceae)?
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© 2020, Springer Nature B.V. Land clearing of habitat into smaller, isolated remnants is a major driver of plant and animal extinctions globally. In southeastern Australia, once widespread temperate savannas have been subjected to extensive land clearing since European settlement. Some small fragments have persisted, but declines in the dominant trees have been reported, with anecdotal observations of widespread recruitment bottlenecks and seed set failure. To test the hypothesis that populations of Banksia marginata are experiencing widespread recruitment bottlenecks, we examined tree size-class distribution and production of infructescences (cones) of 15 populations on the western plains of Victoria, Australia. We found no evidence of widespread recruitment bottlenecks or a failure to set seeds; most populations were recruiting, though we did find evidence of declining recruitment with population size, suggesting evidence of an Allee effect. The proportion of trees without cones varied between populations; three populations had large numbers of trees (> 40%) lacking mature fertile cones. Managers should focus on minimising threats to seedling survival and augment populations below 100 individuals to improve recruitment and maintain stand persistence in the landscape.
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