, Volume 86, Issue 4, pp 585-593

Costs of reproduction in Nyssa sylvatica: sexual dimorphism in reproductive frequency and nutrient flux

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We examined the influence of differential reproductive frequency between the sexes on tertiary (phenotypic) sex ratios in the the dioecious tree Nyssa sylvatica (Nyssaceae). Reproduction was evaluated in relation to sex, size and canopy exposure using flowering data collected from 1229 marked trees over a four year period. For subsets of each population we used data on flower number, fruit crop size, fruit/flower ratios, and individual flower and fruit mass to compare biomass invested in reproductive structures of males and females. We also examined seasonal changes in stem nitrogen and soluble carbohydrate content in relation to flower and fruit production for trees of each sex. Our results indicate that: 1) Male-biased tertiary sex ratios could be explained by more frequent reproduction by male trees; 2) Estimated secondary sex ratios based on sums of all known males and females were not significantly different from 1:1; 3) Flowering frequency of males and females was significantly related to plant size (DBH) and exposure of the canopy to light; 4) Estimtes of reproductive biomass allocation ranged from 1.36 to 10.8 times greater for females relative to males; 5) Flower production was related to stem nutrient status for both sexes, but nutrient depletion and its effect on subsequent flowering was much more pronounced for female trees. We conclude that less frequent flowering by female trees may result from depletion of stored reserves, and that differential flowering frequency in N. sylvatica may ultimately reduce apparent sexual differences in the costs of reproduction.