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Tree Physiol. 2008 Aug;28(8):1269-76.

Masting in Fagus crenata and its influence on the nitrogen content and dry mass of winter buds.

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Department of Plant Ecology, Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute, 1 Matsunosato, Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan.


In Fagus, full-mast seeding years are invariably followed by at least one non-mast year. Both flower and leaf primordia develop during the summer within the same winter buds. Flower bud initiation occurs when the N content of developing seeds is increasing rapidly. We hypothesized that competition for nitrogen (N) between developing seeds and buds limits flower primordium formation in mast years and, hence, limits seed production in years following mast years. We tested this hypothesis in three Fagus crenata Blume forests at elevations of 550, 900 and 1500 m. Bud N concentration (N con), amount of N per bud (N bud) and dry mass per bud (DM) were compared between a mast year (2005) and the following non-mast year (2006), and between winter buds containing both leaf and flower primoridia (BF), which were formed during the non-mast year, and winter buds containing leaf primordia only (BL), which were formed in both mast and non-mast years. In addition, leaf numbers per shoot corresponding to the analyzed buds were counted, and the effect of masting on litter production was analyzed by quantifying the amounts of litter that fell in the years 2004 to 2007. The dry mass and N content of BF formed in 2006 by trees at both 550 and 1500 m were 2.1-3.4-fold higher than the corresponding amounts in BL, although the numbers of leaves per current-year shoot in 2007 that developed from the two bud types in the same individuals did not differ significantly. These results indicate that more N and carbohydrate are expended in producing BF than in producing BL. The amount of litter from reproductive organs produced in the mast year was similar to the amount of leaf litter at 900 and 1500 m, but three times as much at 550 m. Leaf numbers per shoot were significantly lower at all elevations in the mast year than in the non-mast years (and the amount of leaf litter at 550 and 1500 m tended to be lower in the mast year than in the non-mast years. In conclusion, preferential allocation of resources to seeds in the mast year reduced the availability of resources for flower primordium formation, and this may have accounted for the poor seed production in the following non-mast year.

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