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There is a paucity of data describing the nature of the trade-off function between reproduction and future performance. Most studies implicitly assume it is a linear function such that allocation of resources to reproduction results in a proportional decline in future survival and reproduction. We reanalyse data from a field experiment with halfsib families of Plantago major L. that suggests this relationship is in fact curvilinear. Low levels of reproductive investment had relatively little impact on future performance and higher levels of investment had a larger impact. To explain this curvilinear pattern, we conducted an experiment to examine the effect of incremental increases in reproductive investment on rates of resource uptake in P. major and Plantago rugelii Decne. Results suggest that, because of differences in the resource requirements of vegetative versus reproductive tissues, reproduction will have little effect on growth, providing that the limiting resources are required in greater quantities for vegetative as compared with reproductive tissues. These results are in accord with a curvilinear trade-off function between reproduction and future performance and provide an explanation for the maintenance of sexual reproduction in species where seed production may contribute minimally to fitness in the short term.


This article was originally published in Canadian Journal of Botany, 80(2): 140-150. © 2002 National Research Council. Reproduced with permission