Trade-offs between vegetative growth and acorn production in Quercus lobata during a mast year: The relevance of crop size and hierarchical level within the canopy

Belén Sánchez-Humanes, Victoria L. Sork, Josep Maria Espelta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The concept of trade-offs between reproduction and other fitness traits is a fundamental principle of life history theory. For many plant species, the cost of sexual reproduction affects vegetative growth in years of high seed production through the allocation of resources to reproduction at different hierarchical levels of canopy organization. We have examined these tradeoffs at the shoot and branch level in an endemic California oak, Quercus lobata, during a mast year. To determine whether acorn production caused a reduction in vegetative growth, we studied trees that were high and low acorn producers, respectively. We observed that in both low and high acorn producers, shoots without acorns located adjacent to reproductive shoots showed reduced vegetative growth but that reduced branch-level growth on acorn-bearing branches occurred only in low acorn producers. The availability of local resources, measured as previous year growth, was the main factor determining acorn biomass. These findings show that the costs of reproduction varied among hierarchical levels, suggesting some degree of physiological autonomy of shoots in terms of acorn production. Costs also differed among trees with different acorn crops, suggesting that trees with large acorn crops had more available resources to allocate for growth and acorn production and to compensate for immediate local costs of seed production. These findings provide new insight into the proximate mechanisms for mast-seeding as a reproductive strategy. © 2010 The Author(s).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)101-110
JournalOecologia
Volume166
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2011

Keywords

  • Cost of reproduction
  • Growth
  • Mast-seeding
  • Modular organization
  • Valley oak

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