Periodical cicada emergences affect masting behavior of oaks

The American Naturalist
By: , and 



Oaks (Quercus spp.) are masting species exhibiting highly variable and synchronized acorn production. We investigated the hypothesis that periodical cicadas (Magicada spp.), well known to have strong effects on the ecosystems in which they occur, affect acorn production of oaks through their xylem feeding habits as nymphs, the oviposition damage they inflict as adults during emergences, or the nutrient pulse resulting from the decomposition of their bodies following breeding. We found negative effects on acorn production during emergence years and the year following emergences and enhanced acorn production 2 years after emergence. We also found evidence indicating a significant effect of cicada emergences on spatial synchrony of acorn production by trees growing within the range of the same cicada brood compared with different broods. These results demonstrate that periodical cicadas act as a trophic environmental “veto” depressing acorn production during and immediately following emergences, after which the nutrient pulse associated with the cicada’s demise enhances oak reproduction.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Periodical cicada emergences affect masting behavior of oaks
Series title The American Naturalist
DOI 10.1086/723735
Volume 201
Year Published 2023
Language English
Publisher American Society of Naturalists
Contributing office(s) Fort Collins Science Center
Description 8 p.
First page 755
Last page 762
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