Reproductive interference may reduce fitness of either of the involved species, with potentially important ecological and evolutionary consequences. Except for the effect of shared pollinators on reproductive success, however, mechanisms underlying reproductive interference have been little studied, even though the severity of its impact may depend on the specific mechanism. The aim of this study was therefore to explore the mechanisms of reproductive interference between Taraxacum japonicum (native to Japan) and Taraxacum officinale (alien).
In a field survey, Takemori et al. examined the association between alien species density and seed set in T. japonicum, and whether pollinator behaviour indicated a preference for the alien. The authors measured the effects of heterospecific pollen deposition in a series of hand pollination experiments, including mixed pollination experiments in which the order of application of conspecific and heterospecific pollen was varied. Finally, to investigate hybridization frequency, the parentage of seedlings produced following natural, mixed or heterospecific pollination was compared.
The authors conclude that, among the examined mechanisms, heterospecific pollen deposition might have the largest deleterious effect on the native species. This effect is frequency dependent; thus, a positive feedback loop may cause the effect on the population dynamics to increase over time, with the result that the alien might eventually displace the native in a population. Effects of the examined mechanisms on population dynamics should be investigated further to improve understanding of the impact of reproductive interference on the structure of plant communities.