For plants with mixed reproductive capabilities, asexual reproduction is more frequent in rare species and is considered a strategy for persistence when sexual recruitment is limited. We investigate whether asexual reproduction contributes to the persistence of two co-occurring, rare sedges that both experience irregular seed set and if their differing geographic distributions have a role in the relative contribution of clonality. Genotypic richness was high (R=0.889±0.02) across the clustered populations of Lepidosperma sp. Mt Caudan and, where detected, clonal patches were small, both in ramet numbers (⩽3 ramets/genet) and physical size (1.3±0.1 m). In contrast, genotypic richness was lower in the isolated L. sp. Parker Range populations, albeit more variable (R=0.437±0.13), with genets as large as 17 ramets and up to 5.8 m in size. Aggregated clonal growth generated significant fine-scale genetic structure in both species but to a greater spatial extent and with additional genet-level structure in L. sp. Parker Range that is likely due to restricted seed dispersal. Despite both species being rare, asexual reproduction clearly has a more important role in the persistence of L. sp. Parker Range than L. sp. Mt Caudan. This is consistent with our prediction that limitations to sexual reproduction, via geographic isolation to effective gene exchange, can lead to greater contributions of asexual reproduction. These results demonstrate the role of population isolation in affecting the balance of alternate reproductive modes and the contextual nature of asexual reproduction in rare species.
|Number of pages||8|
|Publication status||Published - 15 Apr 2015|