, Volume 159, Issue 3, pp 527–537

The effect of climate on masting in the European larch and on its specific seed predators


  • Benedicte N. Poncet
    • Laboratoire d’Ecologie AlpineCNRS-UMR 5553, Université Joseph Fourier
  • Philippe Garat
    • Laboratoire Jean KuntzmannUMR 5224, Université Pierre Mendès France
  • Stephanie Manel
    • Laboratoire d’Ecologie AlpineCNRS-UMR 5553, Université Joseph Fourier
  • Noëlle Bru
    • Laboratoire de Mathématiques AppliquéesCNRS-UMR 5142, Université de Pau et des pays de l’Adour
  • Jean-Marie Sachet
    • Laboratoire d’Ecologie AlpineCNRS-UMR 5553, Université Joseph Fourier
  • Alain Roques
    • Institut National de la Recherche AgronomiqueINRA-UR633
    • Laboratoire d’Ecologie AlpineCNRS-UMR 5553, Université Joseph Fourier
Plant-Animal Interactions - Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s00442-008-1233-5

Cite this article as:
Poncet, B.N., Garat, P., Manel, S. et al. Oecologia (2009) 159: 527. doi:10.1007/s00442-008-1233-5


Masting is the intermittent production of large seed crops by a population of plants. Two main hypotheses have been proposed to explain masting. Variations in seed crop may result from stochastic climate factors (temperature, rainfall, etc.), and/or masting may be a plant evolutionary strategy to avoid specific seed predators. To determine the effect of climate on the annual pattern of cone production in the European larch (Larix decidua), we analyzed larch cone production from 1975 to 2005 at 20 sites in the French Alps, ranging from 1,300 to 2,100 m a.s.l. (on average 17 years per site were sampled). We examined the effects of mast seeding on the predation of larch cones by the dominant specific pre-dispersal seed predators, cone fly Strobilomyia spp. Larch cone production varied across the years and was spatially synchronized throughout the region. We constructed two models to explain seed production, one for sites at low (<1,800 m) and one for sites at high (≥1,800 m) altitudes, using partial least squares (PLS) regressions to detect across a large number of climate indices (306) the factors which best explain cone production. Monthly indices were more accurate descriptors than 4-month period indices. The predation rate was lower in high cone production years that followed low production years, supporting the predator satiation hypothesis. However, variable cone production explained only a small part of predation rates (45 and 25% at low and high altitudes, respectively). Predation was also directly affected by climate conditions. PLS regressions taking into account both cone production and climate factors accounted for as much as 68 and 82% of the predation rate variation at low and high altitudes, respectively. This study contributes to a better understanding of how climate factors differently affect the members of an interacting community.


MastingPredator satiationAltitudeSpatial synchronySeed predation

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© Springer-Verlag 2008