Climate cues and resources interact to determine seed production by a masting species


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1. Mast seeding is the intermittent production of large quantities of seed across a perennial plant population. Such seeding events in many plant species are initiated by climatic cues, but whether these cues act solely as triggers or also via alterations to nutrient availability is unclear.

2. Here, we examine the effect of nitrogenous fertilization on the relationship between seed production in Nothofagus solandri var. cliffortioides and two climatic cues (rainfall and temperature) at specific stages in reproductive development from 1999 to 2008.

3. Foliar nitrogen concentrations were positively correlated with rainfall among years, suggesting rainfall was affecting nitrogen availability.

4. Seedfall mass in unfertilized stands was predominantly determined by rainfall during resource priming, while seed production in fertilized stands was more affected by temperature during floral primordia development. Similarly, seedfall mass in older stands, which contain greater internal nutrient reserves, was predominantly determined by temperature.

5.Synthesis. The results of this study demonstrate that the sensitivity of seed production to climatic cues can be altered by manipulation of resource availability and therefore establish that climatic cues involved in the synchronization of mast seeding can influence reproductive effort via an effect on resource availability. These results also indicate that alterations to resource availability have the potential to alter inter-annual patterns of seed production, but further study is required to verify this finding.