Variation Among Individuals in Cone Production in Pinus palustris Mill. (Pinaceae)

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Canopy status, fire, heterogeneity, hurdle model, longleaf pine, reproduction, variation

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Premise of the study: Reproductive output varies considerably among individuals within plant populations, and this is especially so in cone production of conifers. While this variation can have substantial effects on populations, little is known about its magnitude or causes.

Methods: We studied variation in cone production for 2 years within a population of Pinus palustris Mill. (longleaf pine; Pinaceae). Using hurdle models, we evaluated the importance of burn treatments, tree size (dbh), canopy status (open, dominant, subordinate), and number of conspecific neighbors within 4 m (N4).

Key results: Cone production of individuals—even after accounting for other variables—was strongly correlated between years. Trees in plots burned every 1, 2, or 5 years produced more cones than those burned every 7 years, or unburned. Larger trees tend to produce more cones, but the large effects of the other factors studied caused substantial scatter in the dbh-cone number relationship. Among trees in the open, dbh had little explanatory power. Subordinate trees with three neighbors produced no cones.

Conclusions: Tree size alone was a weak predictor of cone production. Interactions with neighbors play an important role in generating reproductive heterogeneity, and must be accounted for when relating cone production to size. The strong between-year correlation, together with the large variance in cone production among trees without neighbors, suggests that still more of the variance may be explainable, but requires factors outside of our study.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

American Journal of Botany, v. 99, issue 4, p. 640-645