Sexual dimorphism in reproductive allocation and water use efficiency in Maireana pyramidata (Chenopodiaceae), a dioecious, semi-arid shrub

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Journal Article
Australian Journal of Botany, 2003, 51 (5), pp. 509 - 514
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Sexual dimorphism in dioecious plant species is widely attributed to the differential impacts of reproduction on male v. female plants. We investigated sexual dimorphism in reproductive, morphological and physiological traits of Maireana pyramidata (Benth.) Paul G.Wilson (Chenopodiaceae), a dioecious, semi-arid shrub endemic to Australia. We estimated reproductive allocation for each sex by calculating the relative biomass allocated to flowers and fruits per gram of leaf tissue, based on one branch per sample plant. Morphological measurements included leaf mass, stem mass, specific leaf area, plant height and plant leaf area index. We also measured leaf nitrogen and chlorophyll, gas exchange and Δ13C. Reproductive allocation was nine times greater in females than in males. No significant difference between the sexes in photosynthetic rate or transpiration could be detected but instantaneous water use efficiency (photosynthesis/transpiration) was significantly lower in females than in males during the fruiting period. Δ13C did not differ between the sexes. The results indicate that greater reproductive allocation in females has an immediate impact on their capacity for conservative water use but does not lead to long-term differences in water use efficiency.
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