, Volume 27, Issue 3, pp 729–744 | Cite as

Sex ratios and clonal growth in dioecious Populus euphratica Oliv., Xinjiang Prov., Western China

  • Anne Petzold
  • Tanja Pfeiffer
  • Florian Jansen
  • Pascal Eusemann
  • Martin Schnittler
Original Paper


Using a microsatellite assay, we investigated sex ratios at three levels (apparent, intrinsic, genet) for Populus euphratica stands in Xinjiang, China and possible consequences of sex-specific costs of reproduction in terms of clonal growth and individual growth or mortality. Sex ratios at all levels tended to be male biased (60 % of 3,295 flowering trees were male), although male excess was least pronounced at the genet level (52 % of 850 genets were male). Male clones comprised significantly more (708 vs. 572) trees than female clones. Reproductive investment was measured in terms of carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) contents of male and female reproductive organs: single flowers or fruit capsules, whole inflorescences or infructescences, and whole branches of ca. 2 cm diameter. Male flowers and catkins require less N than female fruits and catkins, but on average only 16 % of female catkins develop into fruits. This changes the measured investment for reproduction at branch level: now male branches spent 3.3 times more N than their female counterparts. This coincides with the annual increment of branches, measured as a possible trade-off for costs of reproduction: female branches needed 2 years less to reach a diameter of 2 cm. We conclude that full fruit set of females would give males a heavy comparative advantage, but frequent abortion of whole infructescences by females seems to be a powerful mechanism to compensate a higher reproductive effort, thus avoiding a pronounced runaway effect by more vigorous clonal growth of male trees over a long time.


Annual increment Clonal growth Microsatellites Populuseuphratica Oliv. Resource allocation Sex ratio 



We wish to thank Prof. Nurbay Abdusalih, Xinjiang University, and numerous students of his group, especially Gymanias Saidahmad for logistic help and contributions to field investigations in Xinjiang. We are also indebted to Anja Klahr and Julia Petzold for help with molecular work, Ulrich Möbius and Katrin Bünger for assistance with C/N analyses, and Prof. Martin Wilmking for enabling increment measurements (all Greifswald University). Financial support came from two grants of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, SCHN1080-1/1, SCHN1080-3/1 to MS).

Supplementary material

468_2012_828_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (1 mb)
Electronically available supplements illustrate the sexual structure of the investigated stands (Fig. S1) and contrast the sexual and clonal structure of the genotyped sections (Fig. S2 for the highly clonal plots Ing5, 6, 11; Fig. S3 for the medium-clonal plots Ing 8, 9, 10 and Fig. S4 for the virtually non-clonal plots YimB, E, F). (PDF 1031 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anne Petzold
    • 1
  • Tanja Pfeiffer
    • 1
  • Florian Jansen
    • 1
  • Pascal Eusemann
    • 1
  • Martin Schnittler
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Botany and Landscape EcologyErnst-Moritz-Arndt-UniversityGreifswaldGermany

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