Plant reproductive trade-offs are thought to be caused by resource limitations or other constraints, but more empirical support for these hypotheses would be welcome. Additionally, quantitative characterization of these trade-offs, as well as consideration of whether they are linear, could yield additional insights. We expanded our flower removal research on lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium) to explore the nature of and causes of its reproductive trade-offs. We used fertilization, defoliation, positionally biased flower removal, and multiple flower removal levels to discern why reproductive trade-offs occur in this taxon and to plot these trade-offs along two continuous axes. We found evidence through defoliation that vegetative mass per stem may trade off with reproductive effort in lowbush blueberry because the two traits compete for limited carbon. Also, several traits including ripe fruit production per reproductive node and fruit titratable acidity may be “sink-limited”—they decline with increasing reproductive effort because average reproductive structure quality declines. We found no evidence that reproductive trade-offs were caused by nitrogen limitation. Use of reproductive nodes remaining per stem as a measure of reproductive effort indicated steeper trade-offs than use of the proportion of nodes remaining. For five of six traits, we found evidence that the trade-off could be concave down or up instead of strictly linear. Synthesis. To date, studies have aimed primarily at identifying plant reproductive trade-offs. However, understanding how and why these trade-offs occur represent the exciting and necessary next steps for this line of inquiry.
Bibliographical notePublisher Copyright:
© 2017 The Authors. Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
- architectural constraints
- carbon limitation
- flower removal
- nitrogen limitation
- reproductive ecology
- theoretical ecology