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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2018

Does sex matter? Gender-specificity and its influence on site-chronologies in the common dioecious shrub Juniperus communis

Shetti, Rohan; Buras, Allan; Smiljanic, Marko; Hallinger, Martin; Grigoriev, Andrey A.; Wilmking, Martin


In recent years an increasing number of studies have shown shrubs to be reliable proxies of environmental conditions in regions where Trees - due to harsh climate conditions - are absent. Although many shrubs are monoecious, some are dioecious, which poses certain questions related to gender-specific growth as observed for trees in previous studies. Here, we address the questions whether dioecious shrubs, similar to trees, show growth differences between male and female plants, and - if so - whether this difference needs to be considered in terms of sample selection. We chose Juniperus communis. L., the most widely distributed woody plant, and a common and well-studied dioecious shrub species in the northern hemisphere, especially in the Boreal, Subarctic tundra and Alpine regions. Our samples were collected from four sites - three from the Ural Mountains and one site from Kirkenes in Norway. To see if there were differences in radial growth between sexes we performed four different analyses. First, we used multivariate explorative statistics to see if there were gender biased sub-populations and generally found no differences. Secondly, to compare growth over the lifetime of shrubs we computed cumulative annual increments of basal area which revealed no gender-specific growth patterns. Thirdly, to test if differences in radial growth between male and female shrubs affect the resulting site-chronology, we compared individual shrub chronologies with the site-chronology and found a significant differentiation between normalized correlations of gender-specific chronologies to the site-chronology. This significant difference was restricted to an overall comparison, but not evident at individual site-level. Lastly, we compared correlations of gender-specific chronologies and a mean site-chronology with monthly climate records to find only very few meaningful differences in their responses. In summary, we could not detect any clear gender-specific growth pattern in Juniperus communis but observed a trend towards more non-climatic signals in female junipers which may affect the resulting site-chronology.


Sexual dimorphism; Basal area increment; Ring-width; Boreal shrub; Principle component gradient analysis

Published in

2018, Volume: 49, pages: 118-126

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Physical Geography

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