Ecology of mast-fruiting in three species of North American deciduous oaks

Publication Type:Journal Article
Year of Publication:1993
Authors:V. - L. Sork, Bramble, J., Sexton, O.
Date Published:1993
Keywords:(Fagaceae-), [26070-] Fagaceae-, ACORN-CROP-SIZE, Angiospermae-, Climatology-: Environmental-Sciences, Dicots-, Dicotyledones-, DROUGHT-, Ecology-: Environmental-Sciences, Fagaceae-: Angiosperms-, FLOWER-ABUNDANCE, Missouri-: USA-, Nearctic-region, North-America, Physiology-, Plantae-, Plants-, Quercus-alba (Fagaceae-), Quercus-rubra (Fagaceae-), Quercus-velutina, Reproduction-, REPRODUCTIVE-STRATEGY, Spermatophyta-, Spermatophytes-, TEMPERATURE-, USA-: North-America, Vascular-Plants, WEATHER-

We conducted an 8-yr study of flower and acorn production in three species of oak in east-central Missouri (USA): white oak (Quercus alba), red oak (Q. rubra), and black oak (Q. velutina). The goal was to evaluate whether mast -fruiting, the synchronous production of large seed crops followed by small seed crops, is simply a response to weather conditions or is actually an evolved reproductivity strategy. In this paper, we address four specific questions: (1) Are annual fluctuations in acron crop size the result of synchronous production of acorns by individuals? (2) Are large acorn crops the result of large flower crops and/or high survival of those flowers to mature fruit? (3) To what extent do weather variables account for variation in acorn production among years? (4) Does acorn crop size correlate negatively with prior acorn production? Red oak and white oak showed a greater degree of mast -fruiting than did black oak. Within a species, individuals tended to produce large acorn crops in the same years, but each species differed in which years they produced large crops. The size of a given acorn crop was determined by both flower abundance and survival of flowers to fruit. Principal components and multiple-regression analyses were used to describe the relationship between weather variables and acorn production. The first principal component explained the largest amount of the variation in black oak (R-2 = 0.55) and red oak (R-2 = 0.89). In white oak, two principal components combined to explain 77% of the variation in acorn production. The weather variables that were associated with these principal components included spring temperature (positive effect) and summer drought (negative effect). Past acorn production had a major impact on the size of the current acorn crop, with each species showing a different pattern. In black oak, the current acorn crop was negatively correlated with the crop 3 yr prior but positively correlated with the crop 2 yr prior. In red oak, acorn crop size 1, 2, and 3 yr prior had negative correlations with current acorn crop, while acorn crop size 4 yr prior was positively correlated. In white oak, there were negative correlations between acorn crop size and crop size 1, 2, and 4 yr prior but a positive correlation with the acorn crop size 3 yr prior. These data are consistent with the hypothesis that mast-fruiting species must store resources during some years in order to produce a mast crop. We discuss the possibility that these three species may have inherent cycles of reproduction that are modified by the impact of weather conditions, black oak with 2-yr cycles, white oak with 3-yr cycles, and red oak with 4-yr cycles. We conclude that the patterns of acorn production for black oak, red oak, and white oak are not simply responses to weather events but are also a function of prior reproductive events. This suggests that masting is an evolved reproductive strategy.

Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith