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Costs of reproduction in a willow experimental responses vs. natural variation

Costs of reproduction in a willow experimental responses vs. natural variation

Ecology (Washington D C) 72(3): 1013-1023

We report on the interaction between reproduction and subsequent reproductive and vegetative growth in female plants of a dioecious, early successional, tall shrub, the feltleaf willow (Salix alaxensis). We measured natural variation among individuals in flowering, and its correlation with subsequent shoot growth and flowering. We also experimentally curtailed reproductive allocation in two ways: (1) by removing inflorescence buds in April when plants were dormant, and (2) by covering inflorescences to prevent pollination and fruit development. We hypothesized that these treatments would cause manipulated plants to retain more resources and to deploy them subseqeuently in shoot growth or reproduction. However, treatments had no significant effect upon shoot elongation, which decreased slightly after floral buds were removed. Treatments did significantly increase the fraction of buds differentiating as inflorescences instead of shoots. We compared the experimental outcome with the natural, phenotypic variation among plants. Among plants of either the treated or the unmanipulated groups, there was a significant negative correlation between current reproduction and subsequent growth; the coresponding regressions did not differ between the two groups. Thus, natural phenotypic variation suggested a trade-off between reproduction and growth, but a direct test by experiment revealed only a trade-off between current and future reproduction. Furthermore, the negative correlation seen in unmanipulated plants was unaffected by treatments curtailing reproductive investment. We conclude that this correlation is not directly related to allocation constraints, and does not provide reliable evidence about costs of reproduction. The increased commitment to flowering that occurred after experimental reduction of current reproductive investment may be evidence for a cost of reproduction, although the response need not have been caused directly by resource allocation constraints.

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Accession: 007165669

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DOI: 10.2307/1940601

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