Demographic and genetic factors affecting population viability of Lupinus perennis, an indicator species of Oak Savanna.

EPA Grant Number: R826596
Title: Demographic and genetic factors affecting population viability of Lupinus perennis, an indicator species of Oak Savanna.
Investigators: Michaels, Helen J. , Mitchell, Randall J.
Institution: Bowling Green State University - Main Campus , University of Akron Main Campus
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Project Period: January 1, 1999 through December 31, 2002
Project Amount: $289,178
RFA: Ecological Indicators (1998) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Ecological Indicators/Assessment/Restoration , Ecosystems


Plants in small and sparse populations often have low reproductive success, indicating that fragmentation of populations by human activities may prevent populations from being self-sustaining. This research proposal is intended to improve understanding of whether and how population decline develops for a model organism, perennial Lupine (Lupinus perennis: Fabaceae). This plant species not only suffers from habitat loss and fragmentation, but also is the only host plant for three endangered butterfly species. Lupine is an important indicator species for the imperiled Oak Openings savanna community of the Great Lakes ecosystem. Thus, understanding how demographic and genetic factors contribute to the decline of this plant species is likely to be useful in understanding this community, and will help in recovery efforts for imperiled butterfly species.


The causes of declines in plant reproductive success in small and sparse populations include decrease in pollinator services, loss of genetic diversity, inbreeding depression, and combinations of these factors. The proposed research seeks to determine the importance of each factor, utilizing a blend of observational and experimental techniques, and merging precise data from novel DNA-based indicators of genetic diversity with classical ecological data on reproductive ecology. The planned observational studies focus on how existing variation in population size affects the factors listed above. Proposed experimental studies involve a reciprocal transplant of seedlings between large and small populations to confirm that population size is the causal factor behind the observed patterns. This data will not only improve understanding of the fundamental biological principles at work in small populations, but also will be of great use in designing management strategies. we explicitly seek to quantify changes at the gene, organism, population, and community levels of biological organization, and necessarily deal with multiple spatial scales (local, regional) as well as functional processes between producers and mutualistic pollinators.

Expected Results:

Preliminary evidence indicates that Lupine plants in small populations have low reproductive success and morphological diversity, but adequate pollinator visitation. We anticipate that these plants will have substantial inbreeding depression as well. Our study is likely to elucidate the processes through which ecological changes in declining populations impact population viability through pollinator-mediated effects on genetic variation and seed production. Improvements in risk assessment or risk management: We anticipate that we will be able to estimate minimum sizes for self-sustaining Lupine populations, and to determine how density influences offspring production and fitness. These data should improve the ability of agencies to manage preserves, augment existing or create new populations for the development of corridors of metapopulations of host plants for dispersing butterflies, and contribute to restoration efforts of a Great Lakes oak savanna ecosystem.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 30 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 1 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

ecological effects, genetic polymorphisms, scaling, terrestrial, habitat, conservation, Midwest, biology, botany, entomology., RFA, Scientific Discipline, Geographic Area, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Midwest, Ecology, Ecosystem/Assessment/Indicators, Ecological Effects - Environmental Exposure & Risk, Monitoring/Modeling, Forestry, Environmental Monitoring, Ecological Indicators, Great Lakes, ecological exposure, risk assessment, anthropogenic stresses, ecological effects, habitat, demographic, Oak Savanna, biodiversity, butterfly, conservation, demographic factors, multiple spatial scales, ecosystem indicators, DNA, environmental stress, Lupinus perennis, defoliation, genetic differentiation, indicator species, reproductive health

Relevant Websites: Exit EPA icon Exit EPA icon

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 1999 Progress Report
  • 2000 Progress Report
  • 2001
  • Final Report