Self-fertilization and the escape from pollen limitation in variable pollination environments.
Seed production in many plants is pollen limited, likely because of unpredictable variation in the pollinator environment. One way for plants to escape the consequences of pollinator variability is to evolve mating systems, such as autonomous selfing, that assure reproduction without relying on pollinators. We explore this hypothesis through the construction and analysis of heuristic models of plant population dynamics in seed- or site-limited populations. Our analysis suggests several important points: the familiar rule that inbreeding depression greater than 0.5 maintains outcrossing significantly underestimates the threshold required under pollen limited conditions with prior selfing; variability in the pollination environment erodes the ability of inbreeding depression to maintain outcrossing; and variable pollination environments can result in stable intermediate rates of prior selfing. The results reflect the importance of geometric mean fitness (which in a variable environment is less than the arithmetic mean) in the face of temporal variation.
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