Review Article

Climate change perils for dioecious plant species

  • Nature Plants 2, Article number: 16109 (2016)
  • doi:10.1038/nplants.2016.109
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Abstract

Climate change, particularly increased aridity, poses a significant threat to plants and the biotic communities they support. Dioecious species may be especially vulnerable to climate change given that they often exhibit spatial segregation of the sexes, reinforced by physiological and morphological specialization of each sex to different microhabitats. In dimorphic species, the overexpression of a trait by one gender versus the other may become suppressed in future climates. Data suggest that males will generally be less sensitive to increased aridity than co-occurring females and, consequently, extreme male-biased sex ratios are possible in a significant number of populations. The effects of male-biased sex ratios are likely to cascade to dependent community members, especially those that are specialized on one sex.

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Acknowledgements

Financial support was provided by the National Science Foundation's MacroSystems Biology Program (award nos 1340852 to K.C.G. and T.G.W., 1340856 to K.R.H.) and an MRI Award (DBI-1126840 to T.G.W.) to establish the Southwest Experimental Garden Array (SEGA).

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Department of Research, Conservation and Collections, Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix, Arizona, 85008, USA

    • Kevin R. Hultine
  2. School of Forestry, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, Arizona 86011, USA

    • Kevin C. Grady
  3. US Geological Survey, Southwest Biological Science Center, Flagstaff, Arizona 86011, USA

    • Troy E. Wood
  4. Merriam-Powell Center for Environmental Research and Department of Biological Sciences, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, Arizona 86011, USA

    • Stephen M. Shuster
    •  & Thomas G. Whitham
  5. Department of Forest and Natural Resources Management, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Syracuse, New York 13210, USA

    • John C. Stella

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  2. Search for Kevin C. Grady in:

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  6. Search for Thomas G. Whitham in:

Contributions

K.R.H. originally formulated the idea for the manuscript, conducted the literature review on dioecy patterns of gas exchange and growth, and wrote the text for the main body of the manuscript and Box 1. K.C.G. wrote the text for Box 2 and conducted the literature review that supported the figures in Box 2. All of the authors provided comprehensive editorial input throughout the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Kevin R. Hultine.

Supplementary information

Excel files

  1. 1.

    Supplemental Table 1

    Source of data presented in Figure 1a showing differences in stomatal conductance (g) between male and female plants of dioecious species. The column labeled “M:F Control” is the ratio of stomatal conductance under control (i.e. high soil water and normal temperature) conditions, and “M:F Treatment” is the ratio of g when either a drought or temperature warming experiment was applied.

  2. 2.

    Supplemental Table 2

    Source of data presented in Figure 1b showing differences in net photosynthesis (A) between male and female plants of dioecious species. The column labeled “M:F Control” is the ratio of photosynthesis rates under control (i.e. high soil water and normal temperature) conditions, and “M:F Treatment” is the ratio of A when either a drought or temperature warming experiment was applied.

  3. 3.

    Supplemental Table 3

    Source of data presented in Figure 1c showing differences in growth rates between male and female plants of dioecious species. The column labeled “M:F Control” is the ratio of growth rates under control (i.e. high soil water and normal temperature) conditions, and “M:F Treatment” is the ratio of growth when either a drought or temperature warming experiment was applied.