Mating system, population growth, and management scenario for Kalanchoe pinnata in an invaded seasonally dry tropical forest.
Ecological invasions are a major issue worldwide, where successful invasion depends on traits that facilitate dispersion, establishment, and population growth. The nonnative succulent plant Kalanchoe pinnata, reported as invasive in some countries, is widespread in remnants of seasonally dry tropical forest on a volcanic outcrop with high conservation value in east-central Mexico where we assessed its mating system and demographic growth and identified management strategies. To understand its local mating system, we conducted hand-pollination treatments, germination, and survival experiments. Based on the experimental data, we constructed a life-stage population matrix, identified the key traits for population growth, weighted the contributions of vegetative and sexual reproduction, and evaluated management scenarios. Hand-pollination treatments had slight effects on fruit and seed setting, as well as on germination. With natural pollination treatment, the successful germination of seeds from only 2/39 fruit suggests occasional effective natural cross-pollination. The ratios of the metrics for self- and cross-pollinated flowers suggest that K. pinnata is partially self-compatible. Most of the pollinated flowers developed into fruit, but the seed germination and seedling survival rates were low. Thus, vegetative propagation and juvenile survival are the main drivers of population growth. Simulations of a virtual K. pinnata population suggest that an intense and sustained weeding campaign will reduce the population within at least 10 years. Synthesis and applications. The study population is partially self-compatible, but sexual reproduction by K. pinnata is limited at the study site, and population growth is supported by vegetative propagation and juvenile survival. Demographic modeling provides key insights and realistic forecasts on invasion process and therefore is useful to design management strategies.