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    A growing body of research shows that plant genetic factors can influence ecosystem processes and structure communities, but one aspect that has received little study is sex differentiation in dioecious plants. Since headwater streams are reliant on riparian leaf litterfall, plant sex differences in leaf traits may influence in-stream processes. Sitka willow (Salix sitchensis) at Mount St. Helens is dioecious and heavily infested with the stem-boring weevil (Cryptorhynchus lapathi), which causes branch dieback and summer litterfall. We found that female willow shrubs tend to grow closer to the stream bank, are more likely to be infected by the weevil, and have 42% higher litter C:N than male willows. These factors may lead to increased litter inputs and slower litter mass loss for female willows. The combination of colonization location, herbivore attack, altered litter quality, and slower mass loss results in female shrubs providing more sustained carbon and nutrient resources to microbes and invertebrates in the early successional streams at Mount St. Helens. In addition, since dioecy is a relatively common trait in riparian habitats, it is possible that plant sex plays a far more interesting role in structuring linked terrestrial–aquatic communities and ecosystem processes than previously understood.

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    LeRoy, Carri J.; Ramstack Hobbs, Joy M.; Claeson, Shannon M.; Moffett, Jordan; Garthwaite, Iris; Criss, Nichole; Walker, Lauren. 2020. Plant sex influences aquatic–terrestrial interactions. Ecosphere. 11(1): e02994.


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    Dioecious, disturbance, herbivory, leaf litter, litter mass loss, Mount St. Helens, plant sex, stream ecology, succession, volcano, weevil, willow.

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