Limits to reproduction and seed size-number trade-offs that shape forest dominance and future recovery

The relationships that control seed production in trees are fundamental to understanding the evolution of forest species and their capacity to recover from increasing losses to drought, fire, and harvest. A synthesis of fecundity data from 714 species worldwide allowed us to examine hypotheses that are central to quantifying reproduction, a foundation for assessing fitness in forest trees. Four major findings emerged. First, seed production is not constrained by a strict trade-off between seed size and numbers. Instead, seed numbers vary over ten orders of magnitude, with species that invest in large seeds producing more seeds than expected from the 1:1 trade-off. Second, gymnosperms have lower seed production than angiosperms, potentially due to their extra investments in protective woody cones. Third, nutrient-demanding species, indicated by high foliar phosphorus concentrations, have low seed production. Finally, sensitivity of individual species to soil fertility varies widely, limiting the response of community seed production to fertility gradients. In combination, these findings can inform models of forest response that need to incorporate reproductive potential.

Tong Qiu, Robert Andrus, Marie-Claire Aravena, Davide Ascoli, Yves Bergeron, Roberta Berretti, Daniel Berveiller, Michal Bogdziewicz, Thomas Boivin, Raul Bonal, Don C. Bragg, Thomas Caignard, Rafael Calama, J. Julio Camarero, Chia-Hao Chang-Yang, Natalie L. Cleavitt, Benoit Courbaud, Francois Courbet, Thomas Curt, Adrian J. Das, Evangelia Daskalakou, Hendrik Davi, Nicolas Delpierre, Sylvain Delzon, Michael Dietze, Sergio Donoso Calderon, Laurent Dormont, Josep Espelta, Timothy J. Fahey, William Farfan-Rios, Catherine A. Gehring, Gregory S. Gilbert, Georg Gratzer, Cathryn H. Greenberg, Qinfeng Guo, Andrew Hacket-Pain, Arndt Hampe, Qingmin Han, Janneke Hille Ris Lambers, Kazuhiko Hoshizaki, Ines Ibanez, Jill F. Johnstone, Valentin Journé, Daisuke Kabeya, Christopher L. Kilner, Thomas Kitzberger, Johannes M. H. Knops, Richard K. Kobe, Georges Kunstler, Jonathan G. A. Lageard, Jalene M. LaMontagne, Mateusz Ledwon, Francois Lefevre, Theodor Leininger, Jean-Marc Limousin, James A. Lutz, Diana Macias, Eliot J. B. McIntire, Christopher M. Moore, Emily Moran, Renzo Motta, Jonathan A. Myers, Thomas A. Nagel, Kyotaro Noguchi, Jean-Marc Ourcival, Robert Parmenter, Ian S. Pearse, Ignacio M. Perez-Ramos, Lukasz Piechnik, John Poulsen, Renata Poulton-Kamakura, Miranda D. Redmond, Chantal D. Reid, Kyle C. Rodman, Francisco Rodriguez-Sanchez, Javier D. Sanguinetti, C. Lane Scher, William H. Schlesinger, Harald Schmidt Van Marle, Barbara Seget, Shubhi Sharma, Miles Silman, Michael A. Steele, Nathan L. Stephenson, Jacob N. Straub, I-Fang Sun, Samantha Sutton, Jennifer J. Swenson, Margaret Swift, Peter A. Thomas, Maria Uriarte, Giorgio Vacchiano, Thomas T. Veblen, Amy V. Whipple, Thomas G. Whitham, Andreas P. Wion, Boyd Wright, S. Joseph Wright, Kai Zhu, Jess K. Zimmerman, Roman Zlotin, Magdalena Zywiec, & James S. Clark
Nature Communications