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  Acorns and mast years
From: Steve Marak samarak at arachne.uark.edu> on 2000.11.10 at 08:02:24(5670)
I read an article on this phenomenon of very poor acorn (or other seed)
production in some years and massive production in others. Apparently it
has been well known empirically for a long time. Heavy production years
are called "mast years" (mast being a term for acorns and other such
fruit).

The article I read suggested it was a naturally selected
"strategy" for ensuring that at least in some years, so much seed would be
produced that predators could hardly get it all. The question for the
author(s) was what was the signal that coordinated heavy production in an
area? Was it simply favorable growing conditions the previous year, or
was there some communication, presumably chemical, involved?

I'm sorry that I don't recall which publication I saw this in; we get so
many.

Steve

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From: SelbyHort at aol.com on 2000.11.11 at 11:10:29(5676)
No shortage of acorns in Vermont! It was a very wet summer here.

To further Steve's message: I once heard a talk at a conference about tree
flowering and fruiting in Mexican tropical forests. Via a long term study,
they have mapped heavy flowering and fruiting events in a regular cycle that
tightly corresponds to the El Nino cycles. Many Meso American and Caribbean
tropical forests grow in areas with distinct wet and dry seasons (similar to
Florida's climate). Heavy tree flowering and fruiting is noted after a dryer
than normal "wet" season. Seems in the dry sunny years, the forests have more
sun, less cloud cover and therefore produce more leaves and build up
reserves. Then trees flower and fruit more heavily the next year. During
cloudy, rainy cycles, flowering and fruiting is greatly reduced because there
are fewer sunny days. This 6-7 year cycle may indeed also correspond with
Julius' mention of a 6 year cycle for owls in Trinidad.

Donna Atwood

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