Pitcher's thistle (Cirsium pitcheri) is an endemic plant species found on sand dunes of the shorelines of the western Great Lakes. It is a short-lived monocarpic species (i.e. the plant flowers, set seeds and then dies) and does not spread vegetatively, hence colonization, establishment and persistence is through seedling recruitment.
Whether a population contains enough individuals and genetic diversity to withstand environmental fluctuation, demographic stochasticity, selective pressures, and catastrophic events over evolutionary time is a fundamental question in population biology. Many approaches, from molecular and quantitative genetic studies to demographic studies, have been used to predict whether or not a population is likely to persist, but few studies, if any, have incorporated all three of these approaches in a plant population study.
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