Reproductive Ecology of an Endemic Angiosperm, Meconopsis latifolia Prain (Papaveraceae), in the Kashmir Himalaya, India
Seven spatially separate populations were studied in an attempt to identify and understand the bottlenecks that are responsible for the restricted occurrence and limited size of the existing populations of an endemic species, Meconopsis latifolia, in the Kashmir Himalaya, which is at the brink of extinction. Of the seven populations, only a few individuals in three populations flowered and produced seeds. Vegetative individuals predominated the populations. This skewed distribution of vegetative and reproductive individuals within populations was largely due to herbivory by rodents and cattle that prevented flowering. The surveyed populations showed variability in plant height (38.82±4.39 to 95.37±6.73 cm, p = 0.0001), rhizome length (11.8±0.66 to 27.56±3.74 cm, p = 0.007), number and dimensions of basal and upper leaves, the number of reproductive individuals (0.15 to 2.88 ind. m-2, p = 0.0001) and flower number (16.6±0.67 to 29.12±2.708, p = 0.0001). Breeding experiments confirmed the out-breeding nature of the species and only one insect species foraged and pollinated its flowers. The reproductive output, though relatively more in high elevational populations, was severely constrained by herbivory and pre-dispersal seed predation. Reduced population size, herbivory, reduced number of reproductive individuals, pre-dispersal seed predation and highly-specialized habitat requirements are the major restrictive factors responsible for the present critically endangered threatened status of this species.
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