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Patterns of Growth and Reproduction in a Natural Population of the Fern Polystichum acrostichoides

Gary K. Greer and Brian C. McCarthy
American Fern Journal
Vol. 90, No. 2 (Apr. - Jun., 2000), pp. 60-76
Published by: American Fern Society
DOI: 10.2307/1547415
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1547415
Page Count: 17
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Patterns of Growth and Reproduction in a Natural Population of the Fern Polystichum acrostichoides
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Abstract

Patterns of growth and reproduction were documented in a natural population of Polystichum acrostichoides in southeastern Ohio during the 1994 and 1995 growing seasons. The proportion of biomass allocated to fronds increased with plant biomass, indicating fronds are an increasingly dominant component of the body of P. acrostichoides. Regression analysis indicated a minimum size threshold exists at which this species first becomes reproductive. Both reproductive status and frequency of reproduction were positively associated with greater plant biomass and above-ground growth rates. A cost of reproduction to growth was apparent; above-ground growth rates increased during non-reproductive years among individuals that reproduced in only 1994. Minor increases in reproductive effort were associated with increasing plant biomass; ranging from approximately 0.01% to 2.11%. Nevertheless, reproductive effort may be plastic in P. acrostichoides; the frequency of reproduction correlated negatively with cation concentrations and positively with phosphorous concentrations, and reproductive effort increased with decreasing canopy cover. Together, these observations suggest reproduction in P. acrostichoides only occurs when resources are sufficient to offset it's cost to future growth; a life history that may optimize the advantages of early reproduction and life-time fecundity in a species whose colonizing phases (i.e., gametophyte and juvenile sporophyte) have high risks of mortality.

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