The interaction of clonality, breeding system and genomics for a highly threatened plant species and the management implications
© 2020, Springer Nature B.V. Clonal plants provide a challenge to ecological management and restoration programs. Clonal plants frequently occur as few genets over large spatial scales and may persist for hundreds of years. Hence population structures, effective population sizes and breeding systems of clonal plants are not well understood or managed at scales applicable to non-clonal species. This is a critical issue because clonality is a common trait including among threatened plants and more studies into the management requirements of clonal plant species are required. We investigate the impact of reducing the population size of a highly clonal species and how these impacts can be minimized. Persoonia hindii has a restricted distribution in forested ridges on Newnes Plateau west of Sydney, Australia. We collated data and surveyed populations, undertook assessments of reproductive patterns (flowering; pollination; fruit set and fall), and modelled pollen dispersal among genets. We relate this assessment to planning approaches uninformed by genet structure and reproductive patterns. Small sites likely function as discrete populations, each with low numbers of genets. Genet diversity at this site scale is important as it is associated with increased fruit set. Loss of plants from populations poses a significant risk to population level fitness if genet diversity is reduced. There is an urgent need for more biologically informed approaches for the management of clonal plant species.