Sex-specific differences in key functional traits in the dioecious shrub Dodonaea viscosa: an exploratory study.
Disproportionate investment in reproduction by female plants of dioecious species may produce sex-specific disadvantages under a changing climate, leading to sex ratio biases which can ultimately threaten the long-term persistence of species. This is particularly valid for regions of projected increasing aridity, such as South Australia. We studied several functional traits of the dioecious Dodonaea viscosa, a wide-ranging shrub and key species in many southern Australian ecosystems. Here we compare sexes and reveal significantly greater values for specific leaf area, stomatal density, and potential maximum stomatal conductance for female plants. These differences may reflect female-specific morpho-physiological responses to overcome or compensate for their disproportionate reproductive investment. This is the first study to investigate sex-specific differences in key functional traits in Dodonaea viscosa and reveals clear differences between the sexes that merit future research.