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HOME > PAST ISSUE > July-August 2005 > Article Detail

FEATURE ARTICLE

The Mystery of Masting in Trees

Some trees reproduce synchronously over large areas, with widespread ecological effects, but how and why?

Walter Koenig, Johannes Knops

Figure 4. Multiple ecological interactions between species...Click to Enlarge Image

Masting, driven by cues that are poorly understood, is a reproductive pattern in which an entire population of organisms reproduce at once. Populations that are widely separated—even on different continents—often mast simultaneously. Our authors, drawing on their research on California oaks, compare several explanations for the masting seen in several tree species. Pollen and seed production may be synchronized across wide geographic areas because of chemical or physical connections and large-scale weather patterns. Masting might enhance pollination efficiency or impose a satiation-starvation cycle on seed predators, providing evolutionary advantages. Global warming may affect masting behavior, but the connections are not yet clear.


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