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Am Nat. 2000 Mar;155(3):383-394. doi: 10.1086/303324.

Inbreeding Depression and Genetic Rescue in a Plant Metapopulation.


While migration of individuals has been shown to increase the persistence of small isolated populations through a process known as the "rescue effect," the demographic effects that pollen-mediated gene flow may have in plant populations are not known empirically. This study investigates the role that inbreeding depression plays in newly colonized populations of a common, dioecious, weedy species, Silene alba. Experimental greenhouse studies presented here show that S. alba displays high levels of inbreeding depression (expressed as lowered germination success) in progeny produced with inbreeding coefficients of 0.125 (half-sib mated), 0.250 (full-sib mated), and 0.375 (second-generation sib mated). In addition, it is shown that the degree of inbreeding depression in 12 natural colonies varies with the degree of isolation from other established populations. Significantly, data from experimental populations showed that gene flow into patches comprised of full sibs was higher than those observed into patches comprised of unrelated individuals and may serve to mitigate the effects of inbreeding depression. It is suggested that population connectivity through pollen-mediated gene flow may have substantial effects on the persistence of isolated colonies and on the spatial structure of a metapopulation in general.


gene flow; inbreeding depression; metapopulations; population structure


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