Are reproductive traits of dominant species associated with specific resource allocation strategies during forest succession in southern China?
Plant reproductive traits have often evolved to optimize plant fitness under different environmental conditions, and their relationships with vegetative functional traits reflect more general plant reproduction and resource allocation strategies. How those relationships change during succession remains unclear. Here, we investigated the relationships between 8 reproductive traits and 18 functional traits of leaves, stems and whole plants during succession of a subtropical forest. We found that most leaf traits of dominant species were associated with seed/ fruit dispersal mode and pollination pattern in the early successional forest, while with flower and fruit phenology in the middle and late successional forests. Plant reproduction traits were associated with specific resource utilization strategies during succession, i.e., plants with acquisitive resource utilization strategies tended to have long-distance fruit dispersal in the early succession, while with conservative resource utilization strategies tended to have early flowering (fruiting) or a long flowering (fruiting) period in the late succession. Our results indicate that acquisitive species may invest less energy and resources on reproduction in early succession, and that the conservative species may invest more energy and resources on reproduction in late succession.