The demographic cost of reproduction and its consequences in balsam fir (Abies balsamea)

Silvertown, Jonathan and Dodd, Mike (1999). The demographic cost of reproduction and its consequences in balsam fir (Abies balsamea). American Naturalist, 154(3) pp. 321–332.



It is an axiom of life-history theory that reproduction involves age-specific costs in terms of survival or future reproduction. The measurement of costs of reproduction in plants is difficult, and few field studies have measured these costs in terms of fitness or demographic components, thus creating a hiatus between theory and data. In this article, we describe methods for overcoming the problem, illustrated by a field study of balsam fir. We used serial correlation and a permutation test to detect growth costs of reproduction and show how these translate into demographic costs when relative tree size (and therefore growth) is critical to survival. Using chronosequences, we reconstructed the age- and size-specific dynamics of a subalpine population of Abies balsamea. A matrix model describing these dynamics was then used to estimate age- and size-specific probabilities of future survival to maturity (Zix). By using a regression model of the relationship between tree size, age, and Zix , we were able to estimate the maximum age-specific demographic cost of reproduction for trees of all ages. The shape of the age-specific cost curve for A. balsamea may explain why, contrary to a previously published hypothesis, age at first reproduction in A. balsamea does not vary between wave-regenerating and normal populations.

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