The Mystery of Masting in Trees
Some trees reproduce synchronously over large areas, with widespread ecological effects, but how and why?
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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