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Am J Bot. 2009 May;96(5):904-11. doi: 10.3732/ajb.0800223. Epub 2009 Apr 13.

Survival costs of reproduction in a short-lived perennial plant: Live hard, die young.

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Área de Biodiversidad y Conservación, Departamento de Biología y Geología, ESCET, Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, C/ Tulipán s/n, Móstoles, E- 28933, Madrid, Spain.


According to life-history theory, reproductive investments involve costs in terms of growth, future fecundity, and/or survival. However, studies to date have often failed to detect costs of reproduction, with survival costs among the less documented. We investigated the cost of reproduction in Helianthemum squamatum (Cistaceae), a short-lived perennial of semiarid Mediterranean environments. After experimental flower removal, we evaluated next season's growth, reproduction, and survival of the plants. We also monitored an indicator of plant physiological status (F(v)/F(m)) and leaf nutrient concentration at key phenological stages during reproduction. Survival rate in deblossomed plants was significantly higher than in control plants. As far as we know, this is the first experimental evidence of a survival cost of reproduction in a perennial plant. In contrast, no cost to growth or reproduction was found during the next season, and no significant differences in F(v)/F(m) or leaf nutrients were found between control and deblossomed plants. Helianthemum squamatum's success in semiarid Mediterranean ecosystems seems to rely on a persistent seed bank, combined with a sustained high reproductive output at the expense of survival. We conclude that this strategy might be more common than previously thought among short-lived shrubby plants growing in stressful Mediterranean areas.

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