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Life-History Consequences of Vegetative Damage in Scarlet Gilia, a Monocarpic Plant

Alison K. Brody, Mary V. Price and Nickolas M. Waser
Oikos
Vol. 116, No. 6 (Jun., 2007), pp. 975-985
Published by: Wiley on behalf of Nordic Society Oikos
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40235220
Page Count: 11
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Life-History Consequences of Vegetative Damage in Scarlet Gilia, a Monocarpic Plant
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Abstract

Although herbivory can occur throughout a plant's life, little is known about relative fitness impacts of damage at different life stages. In the long-lived monocarpic wildflower, Ipomopsis aggregata (scarlet gilia), for example, the response to browsing by ungulates in the year of flowering has been studied extensively, whereas damage and its fitness consequences during the preceding years of vegetative growth remain largely unexplored. As part of a long-term demographic study of I. aggregata, we mapped 5324 individual seedlings belonging to two annual cohorts in three natural populations, and followed these plants throughout their lives. Of the 30.4% of plants that survived past seedling stage, 15.3% suffered observable damage to the apical meristem of their single rosette of leaves, usually resulting in multiple rosettes in vegetative plants and multiple flowering stalks in plants that survived to flower. Vegetative damage reduced survival to flowering by ca 30%, and slowed growth, leading to an average delay in flowering of over one yr relative to undamaged plants. On average, damaged plants were 136% larger than undamaged members of their cohort in the summer before flowering, but produced only 86% as many flowers, and achieved 78% the overall fitness compared to undamaged plants when damage effects were integrated across their life history. Previously published studies from the same sites suggested that plants suffering browsing during only the year of flowering, achieved 47% of the fitness of unbrowsed plants. Our results indicate that plants are better able to recover from vegetative damage than from loss of their initial reproductive effort, perhaps because of the longer time over which recovery is possible in the former case. These results underscore the importance of studying the consequences of damage across the entire life history.

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