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25 October 2016, Volume 38 Issue 05
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  • Editorial
    Words from the Guest Editor-in-Chief
    Weibang Sun
    2016, 38(05):  207-208.  doi:10.1016/j.pld.2016.10.004
    Abstract ( 43 )   HTML ( )   PDF (379KB) ( 3 )   Save
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    Plant species with extremely small populations (PSESP) in China: A seed and spore biology perspective
    Ellie Merrett Wade, Jayanthi Nadarajan, Xiangyun Yang, Daniel Ballesteros, Weibang Sun, Hugh W. Pritchard
    2016, 38(05):  209-220.  doi:10.1016/j.pld.2016.09.002
    Abstract ( 55 )   HTML ( )   PDF (607KB) ( 10 )   Save
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    Approximately one fifth of the world's plants are at risk of extinction. Of these, a significant number exist as populations of few individuals, with limited distribution ranges and under enormous pressure due to habitat destruction. In China, these most-at-risk species are described as ‘plant species with extremely small populations’ (PSESP). Implementing conservation action for such listed species is urgent. Storing seeds is one of the main means of ex situ conservation for flowering plants. Spore storage could provide a simple and economical method for fern ex situ conservation. Seed and spore germination in nature is a critical step in species regeneration and thus in situ conservation. But what is known about the seed and spore biology (storage and germination) of at-risk species? We have used China's PSESP (the first group listing) as a case study to understand the gaps in knowledge on propagule biology of threatened plant species. We found that whilst germination information is available for 28 species (23% of PSESP), storage characteristics are only known for 8% of PSESP (10 species). Moreover, we estimate that 60% of the listed species may require cryopreservation for long-term storage. We conclude that comparative biology studies are urgently needed on the world's most threatened taxa so that conservation action can progress beyond species listing.
    High regional genetic differentiation of an endangered relict plant Craigia yunnanensis and implications for its conservation
    Jing Yang, Zerui Gao, Weibang Sun, Changqin Zhang
    2016, 38(05):  221-226.  doi:10.1016/j.pld.2016.07.002
    Abstract ( 60 )   HTML ( )   PDF (1544KB) ( 6 )   Save
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    Of the genus Craigia, widespread in the Tertiary, only two relict species survived to modern times. One species is now possibly extinct and the other one, Craigia yunnanensis, is severely endangered. Extensive surveys have located six C. yunnanensis populations in Yunnan province, southwest China. Using fluorescent amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP), the genetic diversity and population structure of these populations were examined. It was found that genetic diversity of C. yunnanensis was moderate at the species level, but low at regional and population levels. Analysis of population structure showed significant genetic differentiation between Wenshan and Dehong regions, apparently representing two geographically isolated for long time refuges. There are also clear indications of isolation between populations, which, together with anthropogenically caused decline of population size, will lead to general loss of the species genetic variation with subsequent loss of adaptive potential. To conserve the genetic integrity of C. yunnanensis, we recommend that ex-situ conservation should include representative samples from every population of the two differentiated regions (e.g. Wenshan and Dehong). The crosses between individuals originated from different regions should be avoided because of a high risk of outbreeding depression. As all the extant populations of C. yunnanensis are in unprotected areas with strong anthropogenic impact, there is no alternative to reintroduction of C. yunnanensis into suitable protected locations.
    Pollination and seed dispersal of Aquilaria sinensis (Lour.) Gilg (Thymelaeaceae): An economic plant species with extremely small populations in China
    Gao Chen, Changqiu Liu, Weibang Sun
    2016, 38(05):  227-232.  doi:10.1016/j.pld.2016.09.006
    Abstract ( 70 )   HTML ( )   PDF (19966KB) ( 9 )   Save
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    Pollination and seed dispersal in angiosperms have long been investigated in order to understand the coevolution of plants and animals. However, the signals from flowers and/or seeds to attract pollinators and/or seed dispersers have received comparatively little attention. In this study, the pollination biology and seed dispersal of the vulnerable agarwood plant Aquilaria sinensis (Lour.) Gilg, a traditional medicinal plant in China, was studied in its natural distribution range. The reproductive tactics of A. sinensis were studied in detail by employing various tests dealing with fruit set and also seed dispersal. Dynamic headspace extraction followed by GC-MS analysis was also performed in order to reveal the composition of floral scent. The results showed that noctuids and pyralids are the most effective pollinators of pollinator-dependent A. sinensis. The main compounds of the floral scent were (E, E)-α-Farnesene (61.9±3.2%), trans-Ocimene (16.6±1.2%), and Benzyl salicylate (4.6±1.1%). The results obtained from seed dispersal experiments indicate that hornets are effective seed dispersers and they may play an important role in long-distance seed dispersal of A. sinensis. Based on our findings, we recommend several protection methods for this threatened agarwood plant in China.
    Conservation and fruit biology of Sichou oak (Quercus sichourensis, Fagaceae) – A critically endangered species in China
    Ke Xia, Lei Fan, Wei-bang Sun, Wen-yun Chen
    2016, 38(05):  233-237.  doi:10.1016/j.pld.2016.07.001
    Abstract ( 63 )   HTML ( )   PDF (2838KB) ( 7 )   Save
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    Several conservation programs have been started for the critically endangered Sichou oak (Quercus sichourensis) since 2007. These programs include detailed field investigations, seedling cultivation and research on the fruit biology of the species. In this study, we first report on the five mature individual trees found in our 9-year field investigation. Thus far, a total of 10 mature individuals have been recorded. All Q. sichourensis trees are healthy and most produce healthy acorns. Acorns of Q. sichourensis are large with dry masses of 8.0–14.0 g. These acorns had high moisture contents at collection and died shortly after (7–28 d) when dried with silica gel. Characteristics of Q. sichourensis acorns varied between populations. Compared with the acorns from Funing, the acorns collected from Ceheng were bigger, more viable (germination percentage was up to 96%), less sensitive to desiccation, and germinated faster. Q. sichourensis occurs in regions with a distinct 5–6 month dry season. Habitat degradation is largely responsible for the rareness of Quercus sichorensis, but desiccation sensitivity of the acorns may also limit the regeneration of the species and potentially lead to its continued rareness. As a species with extremely small populations (PSESP), Q. sichourensis is facing high risk of extinction and should be defined as a Critically Endangered species in the global IUCN Red List.
    Adaptive introductions: How multiple experiments and comparisons to wild populations provide insights into requirements for long-term introduction success of an endangered shrub
    Eric S. Menges, Stacy A. Smith, Carl W. Weekley
    2016, 38(05):  238-246.  doi:10.1016/j.pld.2016.09.004
    Abstract ( 63 )   HTML ( )   PDF (539KB) ( 3 )   Save
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    Recovery of an imperiled plant species may require augmentation of existing populations or creation of new ones. Hundreds of such projects have been conducted over the last few decades, but there is a bias in the literature favoring successes over failures. In this paper, we evaluate a series of introductions that experimentally manipulated microhabitat and fire in an adaptive introduction framework. Between 2002 and 2012, we (and our collaborators) carried out ten introductions and augmentations of Florida ziziphus Pseudoziziphus (Condalia, Ziziphus) celata, a clonal shrub limited to very small populations and narrowly endemic to pyrogenic central Florida sandhills. Six of the introductions were designed as experiments to test hypotheses about how demographic performance was affected by microhabitat, fire, and propagule type. Introduced transplants had high survival (<90% annually), inconsistent growth, and little transition to reproduction, while introduced seeds had low germination and survival. Transplants were more efficient than seeds as translocation propagules. Shaded (vs. open) sites supported generally higher transplant and seedling survival and seed germination percentages, but growth responses varied among experiments. Supplemental irrigation increased transplant survival and seed germination, but otherwise seedling and plant survival and growth were not significantly affected. Contrary to expectations based on wild populations, introduced propagules have not been more successful in unshaded sites, suggesting that Florida ziziphus has broader microhabitat preferences than hypothesized. Compared to wild plants, introduced plants had similar survival and responses to fire, slower growth, and more delayed flowering. Introduced plants had no clonal spread. While no introduced population has demonstrated a capacity for long-term viability, one augmented population has flowered and produced viable fruits. Given that Florida ziziphus genets are long-lived, low levels of sexual reproduction may be adequate for the establishment of viable populations. Thus, after many translocations over more than a decade, it is premature to characterize any single translocation as a success or a failure, underscoring the need for a long view of translocation success.
    Biological characteristics and conservation genetics of the narrowly distributed rare plant Cinnamomum chago (Lauraceae)
    Wenjing Dong, Xue Zhang, Yang Guansong, Liu Yang, Yuehua Wang, Shikang Shen
    2016, 38(05):  247-252.  doi:10.1016/j.pld.2016.09.001
    Abstract ( 79 )   HTML ( )   PDF (2247KB) ( 6 )   Save
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    Cinnamomum chago (family Lauraceae) is an essential source of timber and oil. This plant is narrowly distributed in the western part of the Yunnan Province. In this study, the distribution, habitat, and biological characteristics of C. chago were examined through field investigation. The genetic diversity and the variation of the remnant populations were also studied using the inter-simple sequence repeat technique. Results showed that C. chago is mainly distributed in the upstream tributary mountains of Lancang River in Yunlong County of Yunnan Province. The species distribution exhibited a fragmented pattern with five isolated populations and high-frequency anthropogenic interference. A combination of morphological features (opposite leaves, pinnate leaf veins, absence of glandular fossa, large drupe, small punch, and pollen surface with triangular spike grain, with cushion bumps at the base) indicated that C. chago is a key phylogenetic taxon between the two sections of Asian Cinnamomum plants (Sect. Camphora (Trew) Meissn. and Sect. Cinnamomum). Analysis of the genetic diversity of C. chago indicated that it has a moderately high level of genetic diversity at the population and species levels (populations level: Ne = 1.629, H = 0.348, I = 0.504, and PPB = 83.3%; species level: Ne = 1.864, H = 0.460, I = 0.652, and PPB = 100%). Analysis of molecular variance revealed that 17% of the genetic variation was divided between the populations, whereas 83% was observed within the populations. Based on these results, we suggest the inclusion of C. chago in the Wild Plants with Extremely Small Populations in China. Moreover, the species should be given special attention and protection. Some strategies were proposed for the conservation of the C. chago populations.
    Reproductive biology of Magnolia sinica (Magnoliaecea), a threatened species with extremely small populations in Yunnan, China
    Ye Chen, Gao Chen, Jing Yang, Weibang Sun
    2016, 38(05):  253-258.  doi:10.1016/j.pld.2016.09.003
    Abstract ( 74 )   HTML ( )   PDF (2923KB) ( 6 )   Save
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    Magnolia sinica is one of the most threatened trees endemic to Southeast Yunnan. Based on our investigations, only 52 individuals and eight populations are found in the wild. M. sinica has been categorized as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List and identified as a “Plant Species with Extremely Small Populations (PSESP)”. Its fruit/seed set is very low and seedlings are rarely found in the wild. It is hypothesized that it may encounter obstacles to reproductive success. This study, therefore, focuses on its reproductive biology, knowledge of which is essential for effective conservation. Flowers of this species are protogynous and nocturnal, and possess a two-day rhythm of sexual presentation. For the first night of anthesis, the flowers are in the pistillate stage during which tepals open at dusk and close approx. 1 h later (except for the open outer ones). They remain closed until the next afternoon, when flowers, now in the staminate stage, re-open and remain so until the tepals drop. Nocturnal beetles enter into the flowers and remain trapped throughout the night as the flower closes, during which time they feed on tepals. Pollen-gathering bees are found to visit the re-opened flowers and the beetles are released during this stage. Two species of Pleocomidae and Curculionidae beetles appear to be effective pollinators.M. sinica is a self-compatible, pollinator-dependent species, and its fruit/seed set can be significantly increased by hand-pollination. No functional seed dispersers have been found in its extant natural habitats. These findings suggest that it may face both pollination and seed disperser insufficiencies in its current fragmented habitats, which may account for its low regeneration. Here we propose conservation strategies based on our findings.