Costs of female reproduction in a conifer tree: a whole‐tree level assessment uri icon

abstract

  • 1. Costs of reproduction lie at the core of basic ecological and evolutionary theories, and their existence is commonly invoked to explain adaptive processes. Despite their sheer importance, empirical evidence for the existence and quantification of costs of reproduction in tree species comes mostly from correlational studies, while more comprehensive approaches remain missing. Manipulative experiments are a preferred approach to study cost of reproduction, as they allow controlling for otherwise inherent confounding factors like size or genetic background.
  • 2. Here, we conducted a manipulative experiment in a Pinus halepensis common garden, removing developing cones from a group of trees and comparing growth and reproduction after treatment with a control group. We also estimated phenotypic and genetic correlations between reproductive and vegetative traits.
  • 3. Manipulated trees grew slightly more than control trees just after treatment, with just a transient, marginally non-significant difference. By contrast, larger differences were observed for the number of female cones initiated 1 year after treatment, with an increase of 70% more cones in the manipulated group. Phenotypic and genetic correlations showed that smaller trees invested a higher proportion of their resources in reproduction, compared with larger trees, which could be interpreted as an indirect evidence for costs of reproduction.
  • 4. Synthesis. This research showed a high impact of current reproduction on reproductive potential, even when not significant on vegetative growth. This has strong implications for how we understand adaptive strategies in forest trees and should encourage further interest on their still poorly known reproductive life-history traits.

publication date

  • 2014
  • 2014