Image_1_Pollinator-Mediated Gene Flow Connects Green Roof Populations Across the Urban Matrix: A Paternity Analysis of the Self-Compatible Forb Penstemon hirsutus.JPEG

Gene flow between populations can help maintain genetic diversity and prevent inbreeding, which is especially important for small, fragmented habitats. Many plant species rely on pollinators to move pollen between populations. In urban areas, insufficient pollinator services may result in limited gene flow, which can have negative consequences such as genetic drift and inbreeding depression. Furthermore, restored populations that are established with few founders of low genetic diversity may have limited long-term population persistence. Here, we tested the hypotheses that populations of a self-compatible forb established on urban green roofs from nursery stock are genetically depauperate and that limited gene (pollen) flow between populations will result in increased inbreeding. We compared the neutral genetic diversity of Penstemon hirsutus, using nine microsatellite loci, between three green roof populations established from nursery stock and three natural populations. We also established ten experimental populations on green roofs and measured rates of outcrossing and inbreeding and identified the movement of pollen within and between roofs using a paternity analysis. We found that neutral genetic diversity of populations established from nursery stock was lower than that of natural populations, although the level of inbreeding was also lower on the green roofs. In our experimental populations, we found that the rates of outcrossing and inbreeding varied between the roof populations. Our results suggest that inbreeding may be correlated with cover of co-flowering species but not with any of the other measured site properties. The location of likely pollen donors suggested that on average, 75% of pollen was derived from plants within the population (including self) and 25% came from plants on different roofs. Our results document realized pollen movement within and between green roofs, demonstrating that these habitats provide important connectivity in a fragmented environment.