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Soil water content and patterns of allocation to below- and above-ground biomass in the sexes of the subdioecious plant Honckenya peploides

Sanchez Vilas, Julia, Bermudez, Raimundo and Retuerto, Ruben 2012. Soil water content and patterns of allocation to below- and above-ground biomass in the sexes of the subdioecious plant Honckenya peploides. Annals of Botany 110 (4) , pp. 839-848. 10.1093/aob/mcs157

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Abstract

Background and aims Dioecious plants often show sex-specific differences in growth and biomass allocation. These differences have been explained as a consequence of the different reproductive functions performed by the sexes. Empirical evidence strongly supports a greater reproductive investment in females. Sex differences in allocation may determine the performance of each sex in different habitats and therefore might explain the spatial segregation of the sexes described in many dimorphic plants. Here, an investigation was made of the sexual dimorphism in seasonal patterns of biomass allocation in the subdioecious perennial herb Honckenya peploides, a species that grows in embryo dunes (i.e. the youngest coastal dune formation) and displays spatial segregation of the sexes at the studied site. The water content in the soil of the male- and female-plant habitats at different times throughout the season was also examined. Methods The seasonal patterns of soil-water availability and biomass allocation were compared in two consecutive years in male and female H. peploides plants by collecting soil and plant samples in natural populations. Vertical profiles of below-ground biomass and water content were studied by sampling soil in male- and female-plant habitats at different soil depths. Key Results The sexes of H. peploides differed in their seasonal patterns of biomass allocation to reproduction. Males invested twice as much in reproduction than females early in the season, but sexual differences became reversed as the season progressed. No differences were found in above-ground biomass between the sexes, but the allocation of biomass to below-ground structures varied differently in depth for males and females, with females usually having greater below-ground biomass than males. In addition, male and female plants of H. peploides had different water-content profiles in the soil where they were growing and, when differences existed (usually in the upper layers of the soil), the water content of the soil was higher for the female plants had than for the male plants. Conclusions Sex-differential timing of investment in reproduction and differential availability and use of resources from the soil (particularly water) are factors that probably offset the costs of reproduction in the above-ground growth in males and females of H. peploides. The results suggest that the patterns of spatial segregation of the sexes observed in H. peploides may contribute to maximize each sex's growth and reproduction.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Biosciences
Subjects: Q Science > QH Natural history > QH301 Biology
Q Science > QH Natural history > QH426 Genetics
Q Science > QK Botany
Uncontrolled Keywords: Dioecy; biomass allocation; below-ground structures ;reproductive effort; spatial segregation; water availability
Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISSN: 0305-7364
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2017 04:37
URI: http://orca.cf.ac.uk/id/eprint/41543

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