Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Print publication year: 2014
  • Online publication date: December 2013

9 - Evolution of synchronised and intermittent reproduction (masting) of trees: key role of regeneration dynamics



The variable and synchronous production of seeds by plant populations is called masting or mast seeding and is observed in diverse forests (Kelly 1994). Many flowers and fruits are produced one year (called a mast year) but little reproductive activity occurs during the several subsequent years until the next mast year (Herrera et al. 1998, Koening and Knops 1998, 2000, Koening et al. 1999). The variance in the reproductive activity of trees between years is large. It cannot be simply a result of environmental fluctuation in annual productivity (Tamura and Hiura 1998).

Many studies on masting have focused on adaptive significance (Kelly and Sork 2002). A popular hypothesis is the predator satiation theory – that is, seed predators starve during non-mast years, while they are unable to consume all the seeds during mast years (Janzen 1971, Silvertown 1980, Nilsson and Wästljung 1987, van Schaik et al. 1993). An alternative but not mutually exclusive hypothesis is pollination efficiency: in mast years, trees receive a lot of outcross pollen, which may improve fruiting success compared with reproduction in non-mast years (Nilsson and Wästljung 1987, Smith et al. 1990, van Schaik et al. 1993, Shibata et al. 1998, Kelly et al. 2001, Rees et al. 2002, Satake and Bjørnstad 2004).

Related content

Powered by UNSILO
Chesson, P. L. and Warner, R. R. (1981). Environmental variability promotes coexistence in lottery competitive systems. American Naturalist 117, 923–943.
Cruzan, M. B. (1998). Genetic markers in plant evolutionary ecology. Ecology 79, 400–412.
Dow, B. D. and Ashley, M. V. (1998). High levels of gene flow in bur oak revealed by paternity analysis using microsatellites. Journal of Heredity 89, 62–70.
George, L. O. and Bazzaz, F. A. (1999). The fern understory as an ecological filter: emergence and establishment of canopy-tree seedlings. Ecology 80, 833–845.
Geritz, S. A. H., Meijden, E. V. D. and Metz, J. A. J. (1999). Evolutionary dynamics of seed size and seedling competitive ability. Theoretical Population Biology 55, 324–343.
Geritz, S. A. H., Metz, J. A. J., Kisdi, É. and Meszéna, G. (1997). Dynamics of adaptation and evolutionary branching. Physical Review Letters 78, 2024–2027.
Hamrick, J. L. and Loveless, M. D. (1989). The genetic structure of tropical tree populations: associations with reproductive biology. In Bock, J. H. and Linhart, Y. B. (eds), The Evolutionary Ecology of Plants. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, pp. 129–149.
Hastings, A. (1993). Complex interactions between dispersal and dynamics – lessons from coupled logistic equations. Ecology 74, 1362–1372.
Herrera, C. M., Jordano, P., Guitian, J. and Traveset, A. (1998). Annual variability in seed production by woody plants and the masting concept: reassessment of principles and relationship to pollination and seed dispersal. American Naturalist 152, 576–594.
Higgins, S. I., Flores, O. and Schurr, F. M. (2008). Cost of persistence and the spread of competing seeders and sprouters. Journal of Ecology 96, 679–686.
Isagi, Y., Sugimura, K., Sumida, A. and Ito, H. (1997). How does masting happen and synchronise?Journal of Theoretical Biology 187, 231–239.
Iwasa, Y. and Roughgarden, J. 1986. Interspecific competition among metapopulations with space-limited subpopulations. Theoretical Population Biology 30, 194–214.
Janzen, D. H. (1971). Seed predation by animals. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 2, 465–492.
Kamo, M., Sasaki, A. and Boots, M. (2007). The role of trade-off shapes in the evolution of parasites in spatial host populations: an approximate analytical approach. Journal of Theoretical Biology 244, 588–596.
Kaneko, K. (1990). Clustering, coding, switching, hierarchical ordering, and control in a network of chaotic elements. Physica D 41, 137–172.
Kelly, D. (1994). The evolutionary ecology of mast seeding. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 9, 465–470.
Kelly, D., Hart, D. E. and Allen, R. B. (2001). Evaluating the wind-pollination benefits of mast seeding. Ecology 82, 117–126.
Kelly, D. and Sork, V. L. (2002). Mast seeding in perennial plants: why, how, where?Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 33, 427–447.
Kisdi, É. and Geritz, S. A. H. (2003). On the coexistence of perennial plants by the competition–colonization trade-off. American Naturalist 161, 350–354.
Kisdi, É. and Meszéna, G. (1995). Life histories with lottery competition in a stochastic environment: ESSs which do not prevail. Theoretical Population Biology 47, 191–211.
Kobro, S., Søreide, L., Djønne, E. et al. (2003). Masting of rowan Sorbus aucuparia L. and consequences for the apple fruit moth Argyresthia conjugella Zeller. Population Ecology 45, 25–30.
Koening, W. D. and Knops, J. M. H. (1998). Scale of mast-seeding and tree-ring growth. Nature 396, 225–226.
Koening, W. D. and Knops, J. M. H. (2000). Patterns of annual seed production by northern hemisphere trees: a global perspective. American Naturalist 155, 59–69.
Koening, W. D., Knops, J. M. H., Carmen, W. J. and Stanback, M. T. (1999). Spatial dynamics in the absence of dispersal: acorn production by oaks in central coastal California. Ecography 22, 499–506.
Koenig, W. D., Mumme, R. L., Carmen, W. J. and Stanback, M. T. (1994). Acorn production by oaks in central coastal California: variation within and among years. Ecology 75, 99–109.
Marks, P. L. and Gardescu, S. (1998). A case study of sugar maple (Acer saccharum) as a forest seedling bank species. Journal of the Torrey Botanical Society 125, 287–296.
Metz, J. A. J., Nisbet, R. M. and Geritz, S. A. H. (1992). How should we define ‘fitness’ for general ecological scenarios?Trends in Ecology and Evolution 7, 198–202.
Moran, P. A. P. (1953). The statistical analysis of the Canadian lynx cycle. II. Synchronisation and meteorology. Australian Journal of Ecology 1, 291–298.
Moran, P.A.P. (1962). Stochastic Process in Evolutionary Theory. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Morin, H. and Laprise, D. (1997). Seedling bank dynamics in boreal balsam fir forests. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 27, 1442–1451.
Muko, S. and Iwasa, Y. (2000). Species coexistence by permanent spatial heterogeneity in a lottery model. Theoretical Population Biology 57, 273–284.
Nilsson, S. G. and Wästljung, U. (1987). Seed predation and cross-pollination in mast-seeding beech (Fagus sylvatica) patches. Ecology 68, 260–265.
Nowak, M. A. (2006). Evolutionary Dynamics: Exploring the Equations of Life. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Nowak, M. A., Sasaki, A., Taylor, C. and Fudenberg, D. (2004). Emergence of cooperation and evolutionary stability in finite populations. Nature 428, 646–650.
Proulx, S. R. and Day, T. (2001). What can invasion analyses tell us about evolution under stochasticity in finite populations?Selection: Molecules, Genes, and Memes 2, 1–15.
Rees, M., Kelly, D. and Bjørnstad, O. N. (2002). Snow tussocks, chaos, and the evolution of mast seeding. American Naturalist 160, 44–59.
Roughgarden, J. and Iwasa, Y. (1986). Dynamics of a metapopulation with space-limited subpopulations. Theoretical Population Biology 29, 235–261.
Satake, A. and Bjørnstad, O. N. (2004). Spatial dynamics of specialist seed predators on synchronised and intermittent seed production of host plants. American Naturalist 163, 591–605.
Satake, A. and Iwasa, Y. (2000). Pollen coupling of forest trees: forming synchronised and periodic reproduction out of chaos. Journal of Theoretical Biology 203, 63–84.
Satake, A. and Iwasa, Y. (2002a). Spatially limited pollen exchange and a long-range synchronisation of trees. Ecology 83, 993–1005.
Satake, A. and Iwasa, Y. (2002b). The synchronised and intermittent reproduction of forest trees is mediated by the Moran effect, only in association with pollen coupling. Journal of Ecology 90, 830–838.
Satake, A., Bjørnstad, O. N. and Kobro, S. (2004). Masting and trophic cascades: interplay between rowan trees, apple fruit moth, and their parasitoid in Southern Norway. Oikos 104, 540–550.
Schoolmaster, D. R.. (2008). Recruitment limitation modifies the net effects of shared enemies on competitively inferior plants. Journal of Ecology 96, 114–121.
Sharp, W. M. and Sprague, V. G. (1967). Flowering and fruiting in white oaks. Pistillate flowering, acorn development, weather, and yields. Ecology 48, 243–251.
Shibata, M. and Nakashizuka, T. (1995). Seed and seedling demography of four co-occurring Carpinus species in a temperate deciduous forest. Ecology 76, 1099–1108.
Shibata, M., Tanaka, H. and Nakashizuka, T. (1998). Causes and consequences of mast seed production of four co-occurring Carpinus species in Japan. Ecology 79, 54–64.
Silvertown, J. W. (1980). The evolutionary ecology of mast seeding in trees. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 14, 235–250.
Smith, C. C., Hamrick, J. L. and Kramer, C. L. (1990). The advantage of mast years for wind pollination. American Naturalist 136, 154–166.
Sork, V. L., Bramble, J. and Sexton, O. (1993). Ecology of mast-fruiting in three species of North American deciduous oaks. Ecology 74, 528–541.
Tachiki, Y. and Iwasa, Y. (2008). Role of gap dynamics in the evolution of masting of trees. Evolutionary Ecology Research 10, 893–905.
Tamura, S. and Hiura, T. (1998). Proximate factors affecting fruit set and seed mass of Styrax obassia in a masting year. Écoscience 5, 100–107.
Taylor, C., Fudenberg, D., Sasaki, A. and Nowak, M. A. (2004). Evolutionary game dynamics in finite populations. Bulletin of Mathematical Biology 66, 1621–1644.
van Schaik, J. W., Terborgh, J. W. and Wright, S. J. (1993). The phenology of tropical forests: adaptive significance and consequences for primary consumers. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 24, 353–377.
Yamauchi, A. (1996). Theory of mast reproduction in plants – storage size dependent strategy. Evolution 50, 1795–1807.