Plant Ecology

, Volume 185, Issue 2, pp 209–220 | Cite as

Forest fragmentation and plant reproductive success: a case study in four perennial herbs

  • Annette KolbEmail author
  • Sandra Lindhorst


We assessed the effects of habitat fragmentation on reproductive success in natural populations of four forest herbs with differing life-history traits and whose distribution patterns appeared to be negatively affected by decreased habitat size and/or increased isolation: Carex sylvatica, Galium odoratum, Sanicula europaea and Veronica montana. Our aims were to test (1) whether habitat size and isolation are positively correlated with population size and isolation, respectively, (2) whether plant reproductive success, a major component of plant fitness, is reduced in small and/or isolated populations when also accounting for differences in habitat quality (edaphic conditions, light intensity) and the effects of plant size, and (3) whether species with different life histories are affected differently. There were significant positive relationships between habitat and population size and between habitat and population isolation in some, but not all of the species. We mostly found no negative effects of small population size or isolation on reproduction. However, reproductive success was reduced in small populations of Sanicula, and this effect was independent of differences in plant size and environmental conditions. The reduced fecundity in small populations may be a consequence of the Allee-effect, a possible mechanism being pollen limitation. Furthermore, the proportion of flowering ramets was reduced in small and isolated populations of Galium, which may have been caused by changes in population structure. Lastly, we found some evidence for largely outcrossing, non-clonal species to be more sensitive to reductions in population size, at least in terms of their reproductive success.


Carex sylvatica Galium odoratum Population isolation Population size Sanicula europaea Veronica montana 


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We thank Dirk Enters for field assistance, Marion Ahlbrecht for laboratory support, Christina Winter for counting and weighing many of the Sanicula seeds and Martin Diekmann for discussion. Earlier versions of the manuscript were improved by comments of Martin Diekmann and the anonymous referees.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Vegetation Ecology and Conservation Biology, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, FB 2University of BremenBremenGermany
  2. 2.Department of BotanyStockholm UniversityStockholmSweden

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