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Data from: Maternal provisioning is structured by species’ competitive neighborhoods

Cite this dataset

Germain, Rachel M.; Grainger, Tess N.; Jones, Natalie T.; Gilbert, Benjamin (2018). Data from: Maternal provisioning is structured by species’ competitive neighborhoods [Dataset]. Dryad.


Differential maternal provisioning of offspring in response to environmental conditions has been argued as ‘the missing link’ in plant life histories. Although empirical evidence suggests that maternal provisioning responses to abiotic conditions are common, there is little understanding of how differences in maternal provisioning manifest in response to competition. Frequency manipulations are commonly employed in ecological studies to assess the strength of interspecific competition, relative to intraspecific competition, and we used frequency manipulations to test how competition in two soil moisture environments affects maternal provisioning of seed mass. Specifically, for 15 pairs comprised from 25 annual plant species that occur in California, we varied the relative frequencies of conspecific to heterospecific competitors from 90% (intraspecific competition) to 10% (interspecific competition). We found that conspecific frequency affected maternal provisioning (seed mass) in 12 of the 25 species (8 significantly (P<0.05), four marginally significantly (P<0.07)), and that these responses included both increased (5 species) and decreased (6 species) seed mass, as well as one species with opposing directions of response to conspecific frequency that depended on the soil moisture environment. Conspecific frequency also affected per capita fecundity (seed number) for 17 of the 25 species (15 significantly (P<0.05), two marginally significantly (P<0.09)), which generally decreased seed number as conspecific frequency increased. The direction and magnitude of frequency-dependent seed mass depended on the identity of the competitor, even among species whose fecundity was not affected by competitor identity; the latter finding reveals competitive differences among species that would otherwise appear to be competitively equivalent. Our research demonstrates how species responses to different competitive environments manifest through maternal provisioning, and that these responses alter previous estimates of environmentally-determined maternal provisioning and reproductive output; future study is needed to understand their combined effects on population and community dynamics.

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