Are stored carbohydrates necessary for seed production in temperate deciduous trees?


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  1. Many tree species undergo large fluctuations from year to year in seed production, a phenomenon known as masting. The resource budget model, based on the assumption that abundant seeding in a masting year depends on the abundance of resources stored over several years, is a key hypothesis in explaining the mechanism of masting. But do masting species really need such long-term storage to produce a large seed crop?
  2. To test this hypothesis, we studied the relationship between the carbon accumulation period for seed production, as estimated by radiocarbon (14C) analyses, and the coefficient of variation of annual seed production in 10 canopy tree species in a temperate deciduous forest. These species differ widely in their reproductive intervals.
  3. In all the species studied, the accumulation period was < 1.4 years before seed maturation. Moreover, without taking species or reproductive intervals into account, there was no significant correlation between the carbon accumulation period and the fluctuation of annual seed production; both remained at an even level.
  4. Synthesis. Our results suggest that temperate canopy trees used photosynthates produced in the current and/or the previous year for seed production, regardless of reproductive intervals. It might therefore be necessary to reconsider the importance of stored carbohydrate resources for masting.