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Climate warming disrupts mast seeding and its fitness benefits in European beech

Bogdziewicz, M and Kelly, D and Thomas, PA and Lageard, JGA and Hacket-Pain, A (2020) Climate warming disrupts mast seeding and its fitness benefits in European beech. Nature Plants, 6. pp. 88-94. ISSN 2055-026X

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Abstract

© 2020, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Limited. Many plants benefit from synchronous year-to-year variation in seed production, called masting. Masting benefits plants because it increases the efficiency of pollination and satiates predators, which reduces seed loss. Here, using a 39-year-long dataset, we show that climate warming over recent decades has increased seed production of European beech but decreased the year-to-year variability of seed production and the reproductive synchrony among individuals. Consequently, the benefit that the plants gained from masting has declined. While climate warming was associated with increased reproductive effort, we demonstrate that less effective pollination and greater losses of seeds to predators offset any benefits to the plants. This shows that an apparently simple benefit of climate warming unravels because of complex ecological interactions. Our results indicate that in masting systems, the main beneficiaries of climate-driven increases in seed production are seed predators, not plants.

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