Premise of the study: The development of biased sex ratios in dioecious plant species has been ascribed to either (1) factors influencing differential adult mortality of male and female plants or (2) factors acting at an early life stage that determine seed sex ratio or seedling survival.
Methods: To discriminate between these two competing hypotheses, we surveyed sex and age of 379 individuals from five species of the genus Salix across 11 alpine valleys in the southwest Yukon.
Key results: We observed uniformly female-biased sex ratios of approximately 2:1 across all adult age cohorts and patch sizes of the five willow species. No spatial variation in sex ratio occurred that could be associated with site-specific characteristics such as elevation or aspect.
Conclusions: Our results indicate that the female-biased sex ratios in the alpine willow species investigated in this study are not a consequence of ecological processes acting on established adult plants. The sex ratio is instead determined at an early life stage by a mechanism that remains unknown.