Nutrient deficiency promotes male-biased apparent sex ratios at the ramet level in the dioecious plant Myrica gale var. tomentosa in oligotrophic environments in bogs

Abstract

In populations of dioecious plants, the differences in the cost of reproduction between male and female plants can promote a male-biased sex ratio. In this study, we examine the macronutrient levels in tissues of the dioecious wetland shrub Myrica gale to identify the cost of reproduction for male and female plants and to examine the effect of nutrients on the apparent sex ratio at the ramet level. We examined plants across 12 populations of M. gale inhabiting bogs and fens in Japan. For each population, we used line transects to estimate the apparent sex ratio and measured the concentrations of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) in the leaves sampled from male and female plants and in the fruits from female plants. For five of the populations, we calculated the flowering frequency, mortality, and the recruitment rate (as the rate of clonal propagation). We found that the proportion of females was positively affected, and the male bias of sex ratios reduced, by increases in P concentration in leaves sampled from female plants. Neither mortality nor recruitment was affected by sex or by the nutrient concentration (P, K). The flowering frequency was not affected by sex or by K concentration, but decreased with decreases in the P concentration measured in leaves. This study confirmed that reproduction in M. gale is P-limited. We found no distinct differences in the flowering frequency, mortality, or recruitment rate between the male and female plants.

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Acknowledgements

We thank Ph.D., Yoichi Watanabe, Tomoka Sato, and Keiko Hashimoto for help with the field work. The research was supported by JSPS KAKENHI (Grant numbers 18380099, 19780119, and 21380087). We would like to thank Enago (http://www.eneago.jp) for the English language review.

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Correspondence to Inoue Mizuki.

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Mizuki, I., Ishida, K., Chiwa, M. et al. Nutrient deficiency promotes male-biased apparent sex ratios at the ramet level in the dioecious plant Myrica gale var. tomentosa in oligotrophic environments in bogs. J Plant Res 131, 973–985 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10265-018-1056-3

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Keywords

  • Clonal
  • Fruit
  • Leaves
  • Nitrogen-fixing plant
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium