Reduced pollinator service and elevated pollen limitation at the geographic range limit of an annual plant

David A. Moeller, Monica A. Geber, Vincent M. Eckhart, Peter Tiffin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

104 Scopus citations


Mutualisms are well known to influence individual fitness and the population dynamics of partner species, but little is known about whether they influence species distributions and the location of geographic range limits. Here, we examine the contribution of plant-pollinator interactions to the geographic range limit of the California endemic plant Clarkia xantiana ssp. xantiana. We show that pollinator availability declined from the center to the margin of the geographic range consistently across four years of study. This decline in pollinator availability was caused to a greater extent by variation in the abundance of generalist rather than specialist bee pollinators. Climate data suggest that patterns of precipitation in the current and previous year drove variation in bee abundance because of its effects on cues for bee emergence in the current year and the abundance of floral resources in the previous year. Experimental floral manipulations showed that marginal populations had greater outcross pollen limitation of reproduction, in parallel with the decline in pollinator abundance. Although plants are self-compatible, we found no evidence that autonomous selfing contributes to reproduction, and thus no evidence that it alleviates outcross pollen limitation in marginal populations. Furthermore, we found no association between the distance to the range edge and selfing rate, as estimated from sequence and microsatellite variation, indicating that the mating system has not evolved in response to the pollination environment at the range periphery. Overall, our results suggest that dependence on pollinators for reproduction may be an important constraint limiting range expansion in this system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1036-1048
Number of pages13
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2012


  • Adaptation
  • California endemic plant
  • Clarkia xantiana ssp. xantiana
  • Climate
  • Evolutionary constraint
  • Mating system
  • Mutualsim
  • Pollen limitation
  • Pollination
  • Reproductive assurance
  • Self-fertilization
  • Species border and distribution


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