Plants often suffer reductions in fecundity due to fragmentation, degradation and destruction of populations and their sites. Whether this decrease in seed production has population-level consequences is generally unknown. Here, we aimed to determine the current status of remnant populations in the perennial herb Primula veris in Belgium. Furthermore, we investigated the effects of reduced population size and morph bias on reproductive success and explored if changes in demographic structure could be associated with population fecundity. We studied 69 populations that differed in population size from three to nearly 1500 flowering plants. Three different population types could be distinguished: (a) “dynamic” populations, characterized by high densities of 1 year old juveniles, (b) “normal” populations with adult age-stages prevailing, but still a considerable number of juveniles, and (c) “regressive” populations, in which only flowering adults dominate and rejuvenation hardly occurs. The three population types differed with respect to population size and morph frequency. Dynamic populations were significantly larger and showed a weaker morph bias compared to the intermediate normal and the small regressive populations. Reproductive success, studied the previous year in 26 populations, decreased significantly with decreasing population size and was significantly associated with the demographic structure of the populations. Coefficients of variation for the proportion of flowers setting fruit, the number of seeds per fruit and the total number of seeds per plant decreased significantly with increasing population size. Hence, the observed variability in seed set may be one of the causal factors affecting the observed types of population demographic structure.
EWI Biomedical sciences