The Effect of Time-Varying Mortality and Carbon Assimilation on Models of Carbon Allocation in Annual Plants

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life history evolution, models, optimal control theory, phenology

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Models of optimal carbon allocation schedules have influenced the way plant ecologists think about life history evolution, particularly for annual plants. The present study asks (1) how, within the framework of these models, are their predictions affected by within-season variation in mortality and carbon assimilation rates?; and (2) what are the consequences of these prediction changes for empirical tests of the models? A companion paper examines the basic assumptions of the models themselves. I conducted a series of numerical experiments with a simple carbon allocation model. Results suggest that both qualitative and quantitative predictions can sometimes be sensitive to parameter values for net assimilation rate and mortality: for some parameter values, both the time and size at onset of reproduction, as well as the number of reproductive intervals, vary considerably as a result of small variations in these parameters. For other parameter values, small variations in the parameters result in only small changes in predicted phenotype, but these have very large fitness consequences. Satisfactory empirical tests are thus likely to require much accuracy in parameter estimates. The effort required for parameter estimation imposes a practical constraint on empirical tests, making large multipopulation comparisons impractical. It may be most practical to compare the predicted and observed fitness consequences of variation in the timing of onset of reproduction.

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Evolutionary Ecology, v. 6, issue 6, p. 500-518