Mast Flowering and Semelparity in Bamboos: The Bamboo Fire Cycle Hypothesis

@article{Keeley1999MastFA,
  title={Mast Flowering and Semelparity in Bamboos: The Bamboo Fire Cycle Hypothesis},
  author={Jon E. Keeley and William J. Bond},
  journal={The American Naturalist},
  year={1999},
  volume={154},
  pages={383 - 391}
}
  • J. Keeley, W. Bond
  • Published 1 September 1999
  • Biology, Medicine
  • The American Naturalist
Mast flowering is the phenomenon of massive flowering and fruiting at intermittent intervals that is synchronized within a species across large areas. Most masting species are iteroparous, flowering and fruiting multiple times during their life span (Silvertown 1980). Bamboos are an exception as mast flowering is largely restricted to semelparous species that flower once and die (Janzen 1976). Additionally, whereas most mast-flowering species produce seed crops on a cycle of 3–7 yr (Silvertown… 
The Bamboo Fire Cycle Hypothesis: A Comment
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The bamboo fire cycle hypothesis proposed by Keeley and Bond (1999) argues that lightning-ignited wildfire has synchronized flowering and recruitment of bamboos throughout Asia, but there is no evidence that fire has played a central role in the evolution of mast flowering or monocarpy in general or in the area of direct experience in South Asia.
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The characteristics of bamboos and bamboo stands were dramatically altered during this flowering event, enhancing seedling establishment and growth, and supporting mostly the habitat modification hypothesis of delayed reproduction.
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The hypothesis provides the first theoretical explanation for the mechanism underlying this remarkable phenomenon of collective bamboo seed releases, and a prediction is that mast intervals observed today should factorise into small prime numbers.
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It is suggested that creation of canopy gaps by parental death is a more parsimonious and generalisable hypothesis for the evolution of gregarious semelparity in bamboos than the recently advanced bamboo fire-cycle hypothesis, however, both hypotheses are potentially group selectionist, and resolution of dispersal distances and/or the spatial genetics of relatedness are required to resolve the problem.
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If the cue for masting is environmental, then the post-ENSO seedling environment should be considered a potential cause for masted, and if it operates in conjunction with predator satiation, then it may have provided the initial stimulus for supra-annual synchrony in fruiting.
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