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Water availability affects the relationship between pollen intensity and seed production.

  • Author(s): Recart, Wilnelia;
  • Campbell, Diane R
  • et al.

Seed production can be affected by water availability and also depend on the amount (pollen intensity) and quality of pollen deposited. The way pollen receipt on the stigma translates into seeds produced follows that of a saturating dose-response. Not only can water availability and pollen intensity each influence seed production, these factors could interact in their effects on seed production. Changes to the relationship between seed production and pollen intensity can in turn influence pollinator effectiveness and pollinator-mediated selection. We asked how water availability affected indices of plant fitness (seed set, fruit set and seed mass) and the relationship between pollen intensity and seed production in Phacelia parryi. We conducted a greenhouse experiment where we manipulated water availability (either high- or low-water) to pollen recipient plants and hand-pollinated each plant with a range of pollen intensities. We conducted 703 hand-pollinations on 30 plants. For each hand-pollinated flower we measured pollen deposited, seed production and seed mass. We then generated a piecewise regression of the relationship between pollen intensity and seed production, and determined average effects of water on plant fitness measures. This experiment was paired with a field observational study aimed to document natural variation in pollen deposition. Average seed production per fruit was 21 % higher in the high-watered plants. The relationship between pollen intensity and seed production differed between the two water treatments. Plants under high-water exhibited a wider range in which pollen deposition increased seed production. Average natural pollen intensities fell within different regions of the piecewise regression for low- and high-water plants. Water availability can alter the efficiency by which pollen received is translated into seeds produced. Our greenhouse data suggest that only under certain pollen intensity environments will water availability affect how pollen received is translated into seeds produced.

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