Patch aging and the S-Allee effect: Breeding system effects on the demographic response of plants to habitat fragmentation

Stuart Wagenius*, Eric Lonsdorf, Claudia Neuhauser

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

90 Scopus citations


We used empirical and modeling approaches to examine effects of plant breeding systems on demographic responses to habitat fragmentation. Empirically, we investigated effects of local flowering plant density on pollination and of population size on mate availability in a common, self-incompatible purple coneflower, Echinacea angustifolia, growing in fragmented prairie habitat. Pollination and recruitment increased with weighted local density around individual flowering plants. This positive density dependence is an Allee effect. In addition, mean mate compatibility between pairs of plants increased with population size. Based on this empirical study, we developed an individual-based, spatially explicit demographic model that incorporates autosomal loci and an S locus. We simulated habitat fragmentation in populations identical except for their breeding system, self-incompatible (SI) or self-compatible (SC). Both populations suffered reduced reproduction in small patches because of scarcity of plants within pollination distance (potential mates) and inbreeding depression. But SI species experienced an additional, genetic contribution to the Allee effect (S-Allee effect) caused by allele loss at the S locus, which reduces mate availability, thereby decreasing reproduction. The strength of the S-Allee effect increases through time (i.e., patches age) because random genetic drift reduces S-allele richness. We investigate how patch aging influences extinction and discuss how the S-Allee effect influences communities in fragmented habitat.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)383-397
Number of pages15
JournalAmerican Naturalist
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2007


  • Echinacea angustifolia
  • Mating system
  • Pollen limitation
  • Prairie
  • Self-incompatibility
  • Spatially explicit model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

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