, Volume 153, Issue 1, pp 1–9

Stage-dependent patterns of drought tolerance and gas exchange vary between sexes in the alpine willow, Salix glauca


DOI: 10.1007/s00442-007-0712-4

Cite this article as:
Dudley, L.S. & Galen, C. Oecologia (2007) 153: 1. doi:10.1007/s00442-007-0712-4


Females and males of sexually dimorphic species have distinct resource demands due to differential allocation to reproduction. Sexual allocation theory predicts that functional traits will diverge between sexes to support these demands. However, such dimorphism may be masked by the impact of current reproduction on source-sink interactions between vegetative and reproductive organs. We ask whether natural selection has led to genetic dimorphism in homologous physiological traits between sexes of the dioecious willow shrub, Salix glauca. In a common garden experiment we compared physiological responses to drought stress by male and female ramets in the absence of confounding demands from reproductive structures. Ramets experienced similar pre-dawn leaf water status (Ψl) as parental genets in flower within the natural population, indicating that experimental dry-down mirrored environmental conditions in nature. Male and female ramets achieved similar instantaneous water use efficiency, based on the ratio of carbon gain to water loss, under wet and dry conditions. However, female ramets experienced greater water stress (i.e., more negative Ψl) than males under dry conditions. Lower Ψl for female ramets may partly reflect the maintenance of conductance under drought; males, in contrast, maintain Ψl under drought by reducing conductance. Differences between sexes in terms of conductance and leaf water status of the vegetative ramets were absent in a concomitant comparison of parental flowering plants. Our results show (1) genetic divergence in physiology between sexes of S. glauca occurs in the absence of gender-specific reproductive sinks, (2) males are the more physiologically plastic sex with respect to water use, and (3) paradoxically, divergence in water relations between sexes is not detectable at sexual maturity under natural conditions.


DioecyDrought toleranceGenetic variationPhenotypic plasticitySalix glaucaWater relations

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Ecology and Biodiversity, Facultad de CienciasUniversity of ChileSantiagoChile
  2. 2.University of MissouriColumbiaUSA