Mating patterns and contemporary gene flow by pollen in a large continuous and a small isolated population of the scattered forest tree Sorbus torminalis Academic Article uri icon


  • The influence of population size and spatial isolation on contemporary gene flow by pollen and mating patterns in temperate forest trees are not well documented, although they are crucial factors in the life history of plant species. We analysed a small, isolated population and a large, continuous population of the insect-pollinated tree species Sorbus torminalis in two consecutive years. The species recently experienced increased habitat fragmentation due to altered forest management leading to forests with closed canopies. We estimated individual plant size, percentage of flowering trees, intensity of flowering, degree of fruiting and seed set per fruit, and we determined mating patterns, pollen flow distances and external gene flow in a genetic paternity analysis based on microsatellite markers. We found clear effects of small population size and spatial isolation in S. torminalis. Compared with the large, continuous population, the small and isolated population harboured a lower percentage of flowering trees, showed less intense flowering, lower fruiting, less developed seeds per fruit, increased selfing and received less immigrant pollen. However, the negative inbreeding coefficients (F(IS)) of offspring indicated that this did not result in inbred seed at the population level. We also show that flowering, fruiting and pollen flow patterns varied among years, the latter being affected by the size of individuals. Though our study was unreplicated at the factor level (i.e. isolated vs non-isolated populations), it shows that small and spatially isolated populations of S. torminalis may also be genetically isolated, but that their progeny is not necessarily more inbred.


  • Hoebee, SE
  • Arnold, U
  • Düggelin, C
  • Gugerli, F
  • Brodbeck, S
  • Rotach, P
  • Holderegger, R

publication date

  • July 2007