Small populations of plant species can be susceptible to demographic Allee effects mainly due to pollen limitation. Although sympatry with a common, co-flowering species may somewhat alleviate the problem of pollinator visitation (pollination quantity), the interspecific pollen transfer, IPT, (pollination quality) may remain a barrier to reproduction in small populations such as new introductions. However, if the two species are crosscompatible, our hypothesis is that neutral hybridization can help the small founding population overcome the Allee effect by improving the quality of pollination. We tested this hypothesis by using a novel modelling approach based on the theory of kinetic reactions wherein pollinators act as enzymes to catalyse the reaction between the two substrates: pollen and unselfed ovule. Using a single locus, two-allele genetic model, we developed a generic model that allows for hybridization between the invading and the native genotypes. Analysing the stability properties of the trivial equilibria in hybridization model as compared with the single genotype invasion model, we found that hybridization can either remove or reduce the Allee effect by making an otherwise stable trivial equilibrium unstable. Our study suggests that hybridization can be neutral but still be the key driver of a successful invasion by mediating pollen limitation. Conservation programmes should therefore account for this cryptic role that hybridization could play in plant invasions.
Theoretical Ecology – Springer Journals
Published: Mar 9, 2017
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