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Am J Bot. 2003 Mar;90(3):347-55. doi: 10.3732/ajb.90.3.347.

Sexes show contrasting patterns of leaf and crown carbon gain in a dioecious rainforest shrub.

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School of Botany and Zoology, The Australian National University, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 0200 Australia;


The sexes of dioecious species may differ in a range of vegetative and reproductive traits as well as in physiological traits. In Siparuna grandiflora, a Neotropical dioecious shrub, we examined differences in leaf-level photosynthesis of different classes of leaf age and, using simulation models, explored whether differences in leaf-level carbon gain led to sex differences in whole-plant daily carbon gain. Male plants had higher photosynthetic capacity at the leaf level. As leaves of both sexes aged their photosynthetic capacity and specific leaf area declined as expected. Simulations of daily carbon gain using the architecturally explicit model Y-Plant and a non-architectural model incorporating a wide range of realistic light environments revealed that the difference in leaf-level photosynthetic capacity did not translate into greater crown-level carbon gain for males. Rather, differences in patterns of allocation to leaf area allow females to achieve higher crown-level carbon gain. The results demonstrate that sex differences at the leaf level do not necessarily predict patterns at the whole-plant level.

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