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Sex ratios and population persistence in the rare shrub Lindera subcoriacea Wofford

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Abstract

Biased sex ratios can have conservation consequences for dioecious plant species with small population sizes because of an increased risk of single sex populations. Biased sex ratios have been observed in two of the three species of Lindera (Lauraceae) in the eastern United States, but have not been documented for Lindera subcoriacea, a rare shrub of the southeastern USA. We inventoried 78 of 118 populations in North Carolina over a 3 year period, documenting the location, community type, and sex, of 299 individuals. In addition, we measured the stem height and diameter for 245 individuals. We examined population persistence relative to historical population size estimates. Average population size was 7.9 individuals and 72 % of visited populations were extant. There was a significant positive correlation between historical estimates of population size and persistence. Lindera subcoriacea consistently had male-biased (58 %) sex ratios across all population sizes and vegetation communities. Males and females had similar stem heights (mean 200.4 vs. 187.8 cm, respectively) and diameters (1.3 vs. 1.2 cm, respectively) across years and were not spatially segregated within populations. It is unclear at what stage biased sex ratios arise in L. subcoriacea, but results suggest that the causes operate across vegetation communities and population sizes. The weak bias exhibited in L. subcoriacea sex ratios has limited implications for the species’ conservation except where spatially isolated populations are unisexual. Given the vulnerability of small L. subcoriacea populations to extirpation, they should be high priority targets for management.

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Acknowledgments

The authors thank Fort Bragg Military Reservation and the Endangered Species Brach for permission to perform the study and logistic support. We also thank the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program for information on Lindera subcoriacea populations, Brady Beck (North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission) for site identification and data collection, and two anonymous reviewers for thoughtful comments that improved the final manuscript. Funding was provided by the US Army via the ERDC Environmental Quality and Installations business area.

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Correspondence to Wade A. Wall.

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Wall, W.A., Hohmann, M.G., Walker, A.S. et al. Sex ratios and population persistence in the rare shrub Lindera subcoriacea Wofford. Plant Ecol 214, 1105–1114 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11258-013-0234-6

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