Plant Diversity ›› 2024, Vol. 46 ›› Issue (02): 247-255.DOI: 10.1016/j.pld.2023.07.002

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Sex-specific facilitation and reproduction of the gynodioecious cushion plant Arenaria polytrichoides on the Himalaya-Hengduan mountains, SW China

Xufang Chena, Yazhou Zhanga, Lishen Qiana, Renyu Zhoub, Hang Suna, Jianguo Chena   

  1. a. State Key Laboratory of Plant Diversity and Specialty Crops, Kunming Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Kunming, Yunnan, China;
    b. Yunnan Key Laboratory of Plateau Wetland Conservation, Restoration and Ecological Services, Southwest Forestry University, Kunming, Yunnan, China
  • Received:2023-04-22 Revised:2023-06-15 Online:2024-03-25 Published:2024-04-07
  • Contact: Hang Sun,;Jianguo Chen,
  • Supported by:
    This study was supported by the Second Tibetan Plateau Scientific Expedition and Research Program (2019QZKK0502 to H.S.), the Strategic Priority Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (XDA20050203 to H.S.), the Yunnan Applied Basic Research Project (202001AT070060 to J.G.C.), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31271552 to J.G.C.), the CAS “Light of West China” Program (J.G.C.), and the Young Academic and Technical Leader Raising Foundation of Yunnan Province (202205AC160053 to J.G.C.).

Abstract: When benefiting other beneficiaries, cushion plants may reciprocally receive feedback effects. The feedback effects on different sex morphs, however, remains unclear. In this study, taking the gynodioecious Arenaria polytrichiodes as a model species, we aimed to assess the sex-specific facilitation intensity of cushion plant by measuring the beneficiary cover ratio, and to assess the potential costs in cushion reproductive functions by measuring the flower and fruit cover ratios. The total beneficiary cover ratio was similar between females and hermaphrodites. Females produced much less flowers but more fruits than hermaphrodites. These results suggested that females and hermaphrodites possess similar facilitation intensity, and female cushion A. polytrichoides may allocate more resources saved from pollen production to seed production, while hermaphrodites possibly allocate more resources to pollen production hence reducing seed production. The surface areas covered by beneficiaries produced less flowers and fruits than areas without beneficiaries. In addition, strong negative correlations between beneficiary cover and flower cover were detected for both females and hermaphrodites, but the correlation strength were similar for these two sex morphs. However, the correlation between beneficiary cover and fruit cover was only significantly negative for females, suggesting that beneficiary plants negatively affect fruit reproduction of females while have neutral effects on hermaphrodites. All the results suggest that to facilitate other beneficiaries can induce reproductive costs on cushion A. polytrichoides, with females possibly suffering greater cost than hermaphrodites. Such differentiation in reproductive costs between sex morphs, in long-term perspective, may imply sex imbalance in population dynamics.

Key words: Facilitation intensity, Feedback effect, Sex-specific facilitation, Nurse plant, Population dynamics, Reproductive function