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The scaling of reproductive variability in trees


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Seed output in perennial plant populations is temporally variable and often synchronous over large regions. The similarly complex spatiotemporal dynamics of animal populations have been characterized by the power-law scaling of the variance in population numbers with mean abundance. Here we show that a large compilation of published reproductive time series exhibits largely invariant mean–variance scaling properties across both angiosperm and conifer tree species. A simple model of seed production in tree stands shows that observed values of the scaling exponent reflect very general aspects of plant ecology and life history as well as the temporal dynamics of seed production. Together, these results suggest that the continuum of reproductive variability and synchrony observed in trees may reflect the influence of a common set of ecological processes.