Biogeography and phylogeny of masting: Do global patterns fit functional hypotheses?

New Phytologist
By: , and 



1) Interannual variability of seed crops (CVp) has profound consequences for plant populations and food webs, where high CVp is termed ‘masting’. Here we ask: is global variation in CVp better predicted by plant or habitat differences consistent with adaptive economies of scale, in which flower and seed benefits increase disproportionately during mast years; or to passive mechanisms, in which seed production responds to variation in resource availability associated with climate variability?

2) To address this question, we compiled a dataset for phylogenetic comparative analysis of long-term fruit/seed production for plants comprising 920 time-series spanning 311 plant species.

3) Factors associated with both adaptive benefits of CVp (wind pollination and seed dispersal) and climatic variability (variability of summer precipitation) were among the best predictors of global variation in CVp. We observed a hump-shaped relationship between CVp and latitude and intermediate phylogenetic and geographic signals in CVp.

4) CVp is patterned non-randomly across the globe and over the plant tree of life, where high CVp is associated with species benefiting from economies of scale of seed or flower production and with species that experience variable rainfall over summer months when seeds usually mature.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Biogeography and phylogeny of masting: Do global patterns fit functional hypotheses?
Series title New Phytologist
DOI 10.1111/nph.16617
Volume 227
Issue 5
Year Published 2020
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Contributing office(s) Fort Collins Science Center
Description 11 p.
First page 1557
Last page 1567
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