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Prior Reproduction And Weather Affect Berry Crops In Central Ontario, Canada

Eric J. Howe, Martyn E. Obbard, Jeff Bowman
Published 2011 · Biology

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Populations of many perennial plants intermittently produce large seed crops—a phenomenon referred to as mast seeding or masting. Masting may be a response to spatially correlated environmental conditions (the Moran effect), an adaptive reproductive strategy reflecting economies of scale, or a consequence of the internal resource budgets of individual plants. Fruit production by endozoochorous plants representing eight genera varied synchronously over much of central Ontario, Canada, 1998–2009. We tested for effects of weather and prior reproduction on fruit production by comparing AICc values among regression models fit to time series of fruit production scores and partitioning contributions by different predictors to multiple R2 into independent and joint contributions. Fruit production by mountain ash (Sorbus spp.), juneberry (Amelanchier spp.), dogwoods (Cornus spp.), nannyberry (Viburnum lentago), and possibly cherries (Prunus spp.) was inversely related to production in the previous year. These effects were independent of weather conditions, suggesting that intrinsic factors such as internal resource budgets or an adaptive strategy of variable reproductive output influenced fruit production. To our knowledge, this is the first evidence of masting in members of the genera Cornus, Viburnum, and Amelanchier, and in members of Prunus and Sorbus in North America. All species produced fewer fruits when weather conditions were dry, so the Moran effect could have synchronized fruit production both within and among species. Patterns and causes of variation in berry crops have implications for ecosystem dynamics, particularly in boreal and subArctic environments where berry crops are important wildlife foods.
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