Plant reproductive ecology and evolution in the Mediterranean islands: state of the art.
The ca. 12,000 islands and islets that encompass the Mediterranean Basin represent a biodiversity hotspot. They have been disconnected from each other and from the continent for hundreds of thousands to millions of years and encompass a high incidence of endemic plant species, with values that can exceed 20% of the local flora. Despite this, relatively few studies have been carried out to unravel ecological and evolutionary aspects of plant reproduction. We synthesise here the available information on the breeding systems, pollination and seed dispersal mode of the Mediterranean island flora. The main objective is to identify general patterns as well as to detect the main gaps in information on reproductive ecology in these particular and vulnerable systems in the face of global change. We also briefly review the information on impacts of invasive species on plant reproduction and dispersal, as these are some of the main threats to island biodiversity in general and Mediterranean island plant diversity in particular. The review has revealed that most available information is very geographically biased towards the western Mediterranean islands, especially the Balearic Islands, although a good fraction of studies have also been carried out on the eastern islands in the Aegean archipelago. Moreover, the majority of data come from species-focused studies, mainly endemic species of restricted range, whereas only a small fraction of studies have been performed at a community level. Relatively little work has involved genetic analyses, mainly focused on assessing the genetic differentiation and variability on narrow endemics. Contrary to our expectations, most island species do not rely on autonomous selfing, which might be related to the relatively high diversity of pollinators. The small, uninhabited, islands might be the last refuges of peculiar interactions that evolved in them in ancient times; they thus should be considered as sanctuaries of extraordinary biodiversity. Finally, we point out the main gaps of information and formulate a set of hypotheses that we believe are worth testing in future studies if we are to advance knowledge on the reproductive biology of Mediterranean island plants.