Much has been written about the role of interspecific competition, disease, herbivory, and the loss of key mutualisms in the extinction of rare plant species. Interspecific hybridization rarely is considered among the biotic interactions that promote extinction. We show how hybridization may contribute to the demise of rare plant species through demographic swamping and genetic assimilation by an abundant congener. We contend that the growth of the hybrid subpopulation is the key to rare species assimilation, and we show how the production of hybrid seed, the fitness of hybrids, and pest pressure affect hybrid proliferation. We also discuss how habitat disturbance, unspecialized pollinators, and weak crossing barriers promote hybridization, and how the negative consequences of hybridization are unlikely to be compensated for by immigration from conspecific populations. We also illustrate stages in the demise of species in island floras. We suggest that hybridization is an increasing threat to rare species because ecological barriers are being disrupted by human activities.
Conservation Biology – Wiley
Published: Feb 1, 1996
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