Masting in whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis) depletes stored nutrients


Author for correspondence:
Anna Sala
Tel: +1 406 243 6009


  • In masting trees, synchronized, heavy reproductive events are thought to deplete stored resources and to impose a replenishment period before subsequent masting. However, direct evidence of resource depletion in wild, masting trees is very rare. Here, we examined the timing and magnitude (local vs individual-level) of stored nutrient depletion after a heavy mast event in Pinus albicaulis.
  • In 2005, the mast year, we compared seasonal changes in leaf and sapwood nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) concentrations and leaf photosynthetic rates in cone-bearing branches, branches that never produced cones, and branches with experimentally removed cones. We also compared nutrient concentrations in cone branches and branches that had never had cones between 2005 and 2006, and measured tree ring width and new shoot growth during 2005.
  • During the mast year, N or P depletion occurred only in tissue fractions of reproductive branches, where photosynthetic rates were reduced. However, by the end of the following year, nutrients were depleted in all branches, indicating individual-level resource depletion. New shoot and radial growth were not affected by masting.
  • We provide direct evidence that mast events in wild trees deplete stored nutrients. Our results highlight the importance of evaluating reproductive costs over time and at the individual level.