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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Managing and Conserving Diverse Bee Pollinators for Sustainable Crop Production and Wildland Preservation

Location: Pollinating Insect-biology, Management, Systematics Research

Title: Reproduction and pollination of the endangered dwarf bear-poppy Arctomecon humilis (Papaveraceae)across a quarter century: unraveling of a pollination web?

Author
item Tepedino, Vincent
item Mull, John
item Griswold, Terry
item Bryant, Gerald

Submitted to: Western North American Naturalist
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/2/2014
Publication Date: 11/24/2014
Citation: Tepedino, V.J., Mull, J., Griswold, T.L., Bryant, G. 2014. Reproduction and pollination of the endangered dwarf bear-poppy Arctomecon humilis (Papaveraceae)across a quarter century: unraveling of a pollination web? Western North American Naturalist. 74(3):311-324.

Interpretive Summary: The dwarf bear poppy, Arctomecon humilis, is a rare plant found in only a few scattered locations in extreme southwestern Utah. While it can produce some seed without being pollinated, cross pollination by bees significantly improves reproduction. Because of the rarity of this plant and the importance of pollination for its survival we have conducted studies over the last quarter of a century on this plant and its pollinators. At the beginning of this period, a good mix of generalist bees that visit many kinds of flowers and specialist bee pollinators that only visit one group of plants were present on the flowers, but most recently only generalists were found visiting the poppy. Since generalists may not be dependable pollinators recommendations for periodic human transport of pollen between isolated populations to increase genetic diversity is suggested.

Technical Abstract: ABSTRACT.—Arctomecon humilis, a rare gypsophile of the extreme northeastern Mojave Desert, is restricted to a few isolated populations in Washington County, Utah, USA. At several times in the past quarter century, we have studied the breeding system and reproductive success of this endangered species, recorded its pollinators, and tested the feasibility of human-assisted gene flow by performing reciprocal crosses between 2 isolated “populations” approximately 4 km apart. Arctomecon humilis possessed a mixed breeding system in the population studied (Beehive Dome in 1988); some plants exhibited self-compatibility but produced significantly fewer fruit/flowers and seeds/fruit for geitonogamous selfpollinations than for cross-pollinations. Few fruits and seeds were produced in the absence of pollinators. The results of cross-pollination treatments did not differ from unassisted open-pollinations (controls), suggesting that pollinators were not limiting reproductive success. Our more recent results (2012) suggest that some populations may be more at risk than others. Although all 7 populations surveyed produced =70% fruits/flower, they differed significantly in fruit set and in average seed number/fruit and seed weight. Possible reasons for these differences (i.e., inbreeding, genetic load, insufficient mating types, pollinator scarcity, etc.), are all potentially important for conservation management and should be investigated. Over the past 2 decades, the pollinator community appears to have changed dramatically from one composed of specialist and generalist bees to one where pollination is presently being accomplished by generalist foragers alone. The health of one of these generalists, the honey bee Apis mellifera, is a current global concern, and its future presence as a pollinator of A. humilis is unclear. Our reciprocal crosses between the White Dome and Webb Hill populations provide support for our proposal that human-mediated gene flow through interpopulation cross-pollinations be undertaken every 5 years to increase the genetic variability of populations. We make several other recommendations for research that would improve the ability of land managers to conserve this species.

Last Modified: 10/17/2017
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