Background and Aims
In clonal plants producing vegetative offspring, performance at the genet level as well as at the ramet level should be investigated in order to understand the entire picture of the population dynamics and the life history characteristics. In this study, demography, including reproduction and survival, the growth patterns and the spatial distributions of ramets within genets of the clonal herb Convallaria keiskei were explored.
Vegetative growth, flowering and survival of shoots whose genets were identified using microsatellite markers were monitored in four study plots for 3 years (2003–2005). The size structures of ramets in genets and their temporal shifts were then analysed. Their spatial distributions were also examined.
During the census, 274 and 149 ramets were mapped in two 1 × 2 m plots, and 83 and 94 ramets in two 2 × 2 m quadrats. Thirty-eight genotypes were identified from 580 samples. Each plot included 5–18 genets, and most ramets belonged to the predominant genet(s) in each plot. Shoots foliated yearly for several years, but flowering ramets did not have an inflorescence the next year. A considerable number of new clonal offspring persistently appeared, forming a bell-shaped curve of the size structure of ramets in each genet. Comparing the structures modelled by the normal distributions suggested variation among ramets belonging to a single genet and variation among genets. Furthermore, spatial analyses revealed clumped and distant distributions of ramet pairs in a genet, in which the distant patterns corresponded to the linearly elongating clonal growth pattern of this species.
Characteristics of ramet performances such as flowering and recruitment of clonal offspring, in addition to growth, played a large part in the regulation of genet dynamics and distribution, which were different among the studied genets. These might be characteristics particularly relevant to clonal life histories.
Clonal plant; Convallaria keiskei; demography; genet; genetic identification; growth pattern; life history; ramet; spatial distribution
The size-advantage model predicts that hermaphroditic organisms adjust sex allocation depending on their resource status. We investigated the relationship between size and sex allocation in the co-sexual perennial herbs Trillium erectum and Trillium grandiflorum at two sites in southern Ontario, Canada by measuring pollen and ovule production and biomass allocation at flowering and fruiting. In both species, there was a strong relationship between size and gender; larger plants allocated proportionately more biomass to female reproduction and produced fewer pollen grains relative to ovules than smaller plants. Variation in gender was better explained by size than age, although age and size were correlated. While the relationship between size and gender was similar between species, T. erectum allocated proportionately more to female reproduction than T. grandiflorum, independent of size. In the absence of pollen limitation, there was no evidence of secondary adjustment of gender at fruiting. The results are discussed in the context of models predicting size-dependent gender modification in animal-pollinated plants. Evidence about the pollination and seed dispersal biology of Trillium spp. suggests that the relative effects of local mate and resource competition may be important in driving size-dependent sex allocation in these species.
Background and Aims
The light availability on a temperate, deciduous-forest floor varies greatly, reflecting the seasonal leaf dynamics of the canopy trees. The growth and/or reproductive activity of understorey plants should be influenced by the length of the high-irradiance period from snowmelt to canopy closure. The aim of the present study was to clarify how spring-blooming species regulate the translocation of photosynthetic products to current reproduction and storage organs during a growing season in accordance with the changing light conditions.
Growth pattern, net photosynthetic rate, seed production, and shoot and flower production in the next year of Trillium apetalon were compared between natural and experimentally shaded conditions. Furthermore, translocation of current photosynthetic products within plants was assessed by a labelled carbon-chase experiment.
During the high-irradiance period, plants showed high photosynthetic ability, in which current products were initially used for shoot growth, then reserved in the rhizome. Carbon translocation to developing fruit occurred after canopy closure, but this was very small due to low photosynthetic rates under the darker conditions. The shading treatment in the early season advanced the time of carbon translocation to fruit, but reduced seed production in the current year and flower production of the next year.
Carbon translocation to the storage organ had priority over seed production under high-irradiance conditions. A shortened bright period due to early canopy closure effectively restricts carbon assimilation, which greatly reduces subsequent reproductive output owing to low photosynthetic products for fruit development and small carbon storage for future reproduction. As populations of this species are maintained by seedling recruitment, acceleration of canopy closure timing may influence the maintenance and dynamics of populations.
13C labelling; canopy closure; carbon translocation; deciduous forest; light availability; photosynthesis; spring-bloomer; Trillium apetalon
Background and Aims
Rubus chamaemorus (cloudberry) is a herbaceous clonal peatland plant that produces an extensive underground rhizome system with distant ramets. Most of these ramets are non-floral. The main objectives of this study were to determine: (a) if plant growth was source limited in cloudberry; (b) if the non-floral ramets translocated carbon (C) to the fruit; and (c) if there was competition between fruit, leaves and rhizomes for C during fruit development.
Floral and non-floral ramet activities were monitored during the period of flower and fruit development using three approaches: gas exchange measurements, 14CO2 labelling and dry mass accumulation in the different organs. Source and sink activity were manipulated by eliminating leaves or flowers or by reducing rhizome length.
Photosynthetic rates were lower in floral than in deflowered ramets. Autoradiographs and 14C labelling data clearly indicated that fruit is a very strong sink for the floral ramet, whereas non-floral ramets translocated C toward the rhizome but not toward floral ramets. Nevertheless, rhizomes received some C from the floral ramet throughout the fruiting period. Ramets with shorter rhizomes produced smaller leaves and smaller fruits, and defoliated ramets produced very small fruits.
Plant growth appears to be source-limited in cloudberry since a reduction in sink strength did not induce a reduction in photosynthetic activity. Non-floral ramets did not participate directly to fruit development. Developing leaves appear to compete with the developing fruit but the intensity of this competition could vary with the specific timing of the two organs. The rhizome appears to act both as a source but also potentially as a sink during fruit development. Further studies are needed to characterize better the complex role played by the rhizome in fruit C nutrition.
Allocation pattern; 14C labelling; carbon translocation; carbon reserves; cloudberry; defoliation; fruit production; gas exchange; Rubus chamaemorus; source–sink relationship; flowering
Background and Aims
Many plants reproduce both clonally and sexually, and the balance between the two modes of reproduction will vary among populations. Clonal reproduction was characterized in three populations of the wild strawberry, Fragaria virginiana, to determine the extent that reproductive mode varied locally between sites. The study sites were fragmented woodlands in Cook County, Illinois, USA.
A total of 95 strawberry ramets were sampled from the three sites via transects. Ramets were mapped and genotyped at five variable microsatellite loci. The variability at these five loci was sufficient to assign plants to clones with high confidence, and the spatial pattern of genets was mapped at each site.
A total of 27 distinct multilocus genotypes were identified. Of these, 18 genotypes were detected only once, with the remaining nine detected in multiple ramets. The largest clone was identified in 16 ramets. No genets were shared between sites, and each site exhibited markedly different clonal and sexual recruitment patterns, ranging from two non-overlapping and widespread genets to 19 distinct genets. Only one flowering genet was female; the remainder were hermaphrodites.
Local population history or fine-scale ecological differences can result in dramatically different reproductive patterns at small spatial scales. This finding may be fairly widespread among clonal plant species, and studies that aim to characterize reproductive modes in species capable of asexual reproduction need to evaluate reproductive modes in multiple populations and sites.
Clonal structure; gynodioecy; Fragaria virginiana; microsatellites; population genetic structure
Background and Aims
Mechanical stimulation (MS) often induces plants to undergo thigmomorphogenesis and to synthesize an array of signalling substances. In clonal plants, connected ramets often share resources and hormones. However, little is known about whether and how clonal integration influences the ability of clonal plants to withstand MS. We hypothesized that the effects of MS may be modulated by clonal integration.
We conducted an experiment in which ramet pairs of Leymus secalinus were subjected to three treatments: (1) connected ramet pairs under a homogeneous condition [i.e. the proximal (relatively old) and distal (relatively young) ramets were not mechanically stressed]; (2) connected ramet pairs under a heterogeneous condition (i.e. the proximal ramet was mechanically stressed but the distal ramet was not); and (3) disconnected ramet pairs under the same condition as in treatment 2. At the end of the experiment, we harvested all plants and determined their biomass and allocation.
Clonal integration had no significant influence on measured traits of distal L. secalinus ramets without MS. However, under MS, plants with distal ramets that were connected to a mother ramet produced more total plant biomass, below-ground biomass, ramets and total rhizome length than those that were not connected. Partial MS exerted local effects on stimulated ramets and remote effects on connected unstimulated ramets. Partial MS increased total biomass, root/shoot ratio, number of ramets and total rhizome length of stimulated proximal ramets, and increased total biomass, root weight ratio, number of ramets and total rhizome length of connected unstimulated ramets due to clonal integration.
These findings suggest that thigmomorphogenesis may protect plants from the stresses caused by high winds or trampling and that thigmomorphogenesis can be strongly modulated by the degree of clonal integration.
Clonal plants; heterogeneous habitats; resource translocation; thigmomorphogenesis
Understanding why individuals delay reproduction is a classic problem in evolutionary biology. In plants, the study of reproductive delays is complicated because growth and survival can be size and age dependent, individuals of the same size can grow by different amounts and there is temporal variation in the environment. We extend the recently developed integral projection approach to include size- and age-dependent demography and temporal variation. The technique is then applied to a long-term individually structured dataset for Carlina vulgaris, a monocarpic thistle. The parameterized model has excellent descriptive properties in terms of both the population size and the distributions of sizes within each age class. In Carlina, the probability of flowering depends on both plant size and age. We use the parameterized model to predict this relationship, using the evolutionarily stable strategy approach. Considering each year separately, we show that both the direction and the magnitude of selection on the flowering strategy vary from year to year. Provided the flowering strategy is constrained, so it cannot be a step function, the model accurately predicts the average size at flowering. Elasticity analysis is used to partition the size- and age-specific contributions to the stochastic growth rate, lambda(s). We use lambda(s) to construct fitness landscapes and show how different forms of stochasticity influence its topography. We prove the existence of a unique stochastic growth rate, lambda(s), which is independent of the initial population vector, and show that Tuljapurkar's perturbation analysis for log(lambda(s)) can be used to calculate elasticities.
Spatial heterogeneity in resource supply is common and responses to heterogeneous resource supply have been extensively documented in clonal angiosperms but not in pteridophytes. To test the hypotheses that clonal integration can modify responses of pteridophytes to heterogeneous resource supply and the integration effect is larger at higher patch contrast, we conducted a field experiment with three homogeneous and two heterogeneous light treatments on the rhizomatous, understory fern Diplopterygium glaucum in an evergreen broad-leaved forest in East China. In homogeneous treatments, all D. glaucum ramets in 1.5 m×1.5 m units were subjected to 10, 40 and 100% natural light, respectively. In the heterogeneous treatment of low patch contrast, ramets in the central 0.5 m×0.5 m plots of the units were subjected to 40% natural light and their interconnected ramets in the surrounding area of the units to 100%; in the heterogeneous treatment of high patch contrast, ramets in the central plots were subjected to 10% natural light and those in the surrounding area to 100%. In the homogeneous treatments, biomass and number of living ramets in the central plots decreased and number of dead ramets increased with decreasing light supply. At low contrast heterogeneous light supply did not affect performance or biomass allocation of D. glaucum in the central plots, but at high contrast it increased lamina biomass and number of living ramets older than annual and modified biomass allocation to lamina and rhizome. Thus, clonal integration can affect responses of understory ferns to heterogeneous light supply and ramets in low light patches can be supported by those in high light. The results also suggest that effects of clonal integration depend on the degree of patch contrast and a significant integration effect may be found only under a relatively high patch contrast.
Species' life-history and population dynamics are strongly shaped by the longevity of individuals, but life span is one of the least accessible demographic traits, particularly in clonal plants. Continuous vegetative reproduction of genets enables persistence despite low or no sexual reproduction, affecting genet turnover rates and population stability. Therefore, the longevity of clonal plants is of considerable biological interest, but remains relatively poorly known.
Here, we critically review the present knowledge on the longevity of clonal plants and discuss its importance for population persistence. Direct life-span measurements such as growth-ring analysis in woody plants are relatively easy to take, although, for many clonal plants, these methods are not adequate due to the variable growth pattern of ramets and difficult genet identification. Recently, indirect methods have been introduced in which genet size and annual shoot increments are used to estimate genet age. These methods, often based on molecular techniques, allow the investigation of genet size and age structure of whole populations, a crucial issue for understanding their viability and persistence. However, indirect estimates of clonal longevity are impeded because the process of ageing in clonal plants is still poorly understood and because their size and age are not always well correlated. Alternative estimators for genet life span such as somatic mutations have recently been suggested.
Empirical knowledge on the longevity of clonal species has increased considerably in the last few years. Maximum age estimates are an indicator of population persistence, but are not sufficient to evaluate turnover rates and the ability of long-lived clonal plants to enhance community stability and ecosystem resilience. In order to understand the dynamics of populations it will be necessary to measure genet size and age structure, not only life spans of single individuals, and to use such data for modelling of genet dynamics.
Age; community stability; genet size; global change; life history; population dynamics; somatic mutation; vegetative reproduction
The effect of herbivory on plant fitness varies widely. Understanding the causes of this variation is of considerable interest because of its implications for plant population dynamics and trait evolution. We experimentally defoliated the annual herb Arabidopsis thaliana in a natural population in Sweden to test the hypotheses that (a) plant fitness decreases with increasing damage, (b) tolerance to defoliation is lower before flowering than during flowering, and (c) defoliation before flowering reduces number of seeds more strongly than defoliation during flowering, but the opposite is true for effects on seed size.
In a first experiment, between 0 and 75% of the leaf area was removed in May from plants that flowered or were about to start flowering. In a second experiment, 0, 25%, or 50% of the leaf area was removed from plants on one of two occasions, in mid April when plants were either in the vegetative rosette or bolting stage, or in mid May when plants were flowering. In the first experiment, seed production was negatively related to leaf area removed, and at the highest damage level, also mean seed size was reduced. In the second experiment, removal of 50% of the leaf area reduced seed production by 60% among plants defoliated early in the season at the vegetative rosettes, and by 22% among plants defoliated early in the season at the bolting stage, but did not reduce seed output of plants defoliated one month later. No seasonal shift in the effect of defoliation on seed size was detected.
The results show that leaf damage may reduce the fitness of A. thaliana, and suggest that in this population leaf herbivores feeding on plants before flowering should exert stronger selection on defence traits than those feeding on plants during flowering, given similar damage levels.
How plant-feeding insects distribute themselves and utilize their host plant resources is still poorly understood. Several processes may be involved, and their relative roles may vary with the spatial scale considered. Herein, we investigate small-scale patterns, namely how population density of a gall midge is affected by individual growth form, phenology, and microsite characteristics of its herb host. The long-lived plant individuals vary much with regard to number of shoots, flower abundance, and flowering phenology. This variation is connected to site characteristics, primarily the degree of sun exposure. The monophagous insect galls the flowers of the host plant – an easily defined food resource. It is a poor disperser, but very long-lived; diapausing larvae can stay in the soil for many years. Galls were censused on individual plants during 5 years; from a peak to a low in gall population density. Only a very small fraction of the flowers produced (<0.5%) were galled even in the peak year. Nevertheless, most plant individuals had galls at least 1 year. In a stepwise multiple regression, plant size (number of shoots) was found to be the most important predictor of gall density (galls/flower). However, gall density decreased more than one order of magnitude over the plant size range observed. There was also a weak effect of plant phenology. Early flowering plants had lower gall densities than those starting later. Sun exposure had no direct effect on gall density, but a path analysis revealed indirect effects via the timing of flowering. Gall population change was highly synchronous in different parts of the study area with no significant decrease in synchrony with distance.
Flowering pattern; prolonged diapause; resource exploitation; small scale patchiness; white swallow-wort
Background and aims
In contrast to seeds, high sensitivity of vegetative fragments to unfavourable environments may limit the expansion of clonal invasive plants. However, clonal integration promotes the establishment of propagules in less suitable habitats and may facilitate the expansion of clonal invaders into intact native communities. Here, we examine the influence of clonal integration on the morphology and growth of ramets in two invasive plants, Alternanthera philoxeroides and Phyla canescens, under varying light conditions.
In a greenhouse experiment, branches, connected ramets and severed ramets of the same mother plant were exposed under full sun and 85% shade and their morphological and growth responses were assessed.
The influence of clonal integration on the light reaction norm (connection×light interaction) of daughter ramets was species-specific. For A. philoxeroides, clonal integration evened out the light response (total biomass, leaf mass per area, and stem number, diameter and length) displayed in severed ramets, but these connection×light interactions were largely absent for P. canescens. Nevertheless, for both species, clonal integration overwhelmed light effect in promoting the growth of juvenile ramets during early development. Also, vertical growth, as an apparent shade acclimation response, was more prevalent in severed ramets than in connected ramets. Finally, unrooted branches displayed smaller organ size and slower growth than connected ramets, but the pattern of light reaction was similar, suggesting mother plants invest in daughter ramets prior to their own branches.
Clonal integration modifies light reaction norms of morphological and growth traits in a species-specific manner for A. philoxeroides and P. canescens, but it improves the establishment of juvenile ramets of both species in light-limiting environments by promoting their growth during early development. This factor may be partially responsible for their ability to successfully colonize native plant communities.
Background and Aims
One of the special properties of clonal plants is the capacity for physiological integration, which can increase plant performance through mechanisms such as resource sharing and co-ordinated phenotypic plasticity when plants grow in microsites with contrasting resource availabilities. However, many clonal plants are colonized by arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF). Since AMF are likely to reduce contrasts in effective resource levels, they could also reduce these effects of clonal integration on plasticity and performance in heterogeneous environments.
To test this hypothesis, pairs of connected and disconnected ramets of the stoloniferous herb Trifolium repens were grown. One ramet in a pair was given high light and low nutrients while the other ramet was given high nutrients and low light. The pairs were inoculated with zero, one or five species of AMF.
Pairs of ramets grown without AMF developed division of labour and benefited from resource sharing, as indicated by effects of connection on allocation to roots, accumulation of mass, and ramet production. Inoculation with five species of AMF significantly reduced these effects of connection, both by inhibiting them in ramets given high nutrients and inducing them in ramets given high light. Inoculation with one species of AMF also reduced some effects of connection, but generally to a lesser degree.
The results show that AMF can significantly modify the effects of clonal integration on the plasticity and performance of clonal plants in heterogeneous environments. In particular, AMF may partly replace the effects and benefits of clonal integration in low-nutrient habitats, possibly more so where species richness of AMF is high. This provides the first test of interaction between colonization by AMF and physiological integration in a clonal plant, and a new example of how biotic and abiotic factors could interact to determine the ecological importance of clonal growth.
Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi; biomass allocation; clonal plant; division of labour; environmental heterogeneity; light availability; nutrients; white clover
Clonal reproduction characterizes a wide range of species including clonal plants in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, and clonal microbes such as bacteria and parasitic protozoa, with a key role in human health and ecosystem processes. Clonal organisms present a particular challenge in population genetics because, in addition to the possible existence of replicates of the same genotype in a given sample, some of the hypotheses and concepts underlying classical population genetics models are irreconcilable with clonality. The genetic structure and diversity of clonal populations were examined using a combination of new tools to analyse microsatellite data in the marine angiosperm Posidonia oceanica. These tools were based on examination of the frequency distribution of the genetic distance among ramets, termed the spectrum of genetic diversity (GDS), and of networks built on the basis of pairwise genetic distances among genets. Clonal growth and outcrossing are apparently dominant processes, whereas selfing and somatic mutations appear to be marginal, and the contribution of immigration seems to play a small role in adding genetic diversity to populations. The properties and topology of networks based on genetic distances showed a ‘small-world’ topology, characterized by a high degree of connectivity among nodes, and a substantial amount of substructure, revealing organization in subfamilies of closely related individuals. The combination of GDS and network tools proposed here helped in dissecting the influence of various evolutionary processes in shaping the intra-population genetic structure of the clonal organism investigated; these therefore represent promising analytical tools in population genetics.
genetic networks; small-world networks; genetic diversity; clonal organisms
• Background and Aims The impact of evolutionary forces on insular systems is particularly exacerbated by the remoteness of islands, strong founder effects, small population size and the influence of biotic and abiotic factors. Patterns of molecular diversity were analysed in an island system with Santalum insulare, a sandalwood species endemic to eastern Polynesia. The aims were to evaluate clonality and to study the genetic diversity and structure of this species, in order to understand the evolutionary process and to define a conservation strategy.
• Methods Eight nuclear microsatellites were used to investigate clonality, genetic variation and structure of the French Polynesian sandalwood populations found on ten islands distributed over three archipelagos.
• Key Results It was found that 58 % of the 384 trees analysed were clones. The real size of the populations is thus dramatically reduced, with sometimes only one genet producing ramets by root suckering. The diversity parameters were low for islands (nA = 1·5–5·0; HE = 0·28–0·49). No departure from Hardy–Weinberg proportion was observed except within Tahiti island, where a significant excess of homozygotes was noted in the highland population. Genetic structure was characterized by high levels of differentiation between archipelagos (27 % of the total variation) and islands (FST = 0·50). The neighbour-joining tree did not discriminate the three archipelagos but separated the Society archipelago from the other two.
• Conclusions This study shows that clonality is a frequent phenomenon in S. insulare. The genetic diversity within populations is lower than the values assessed in species distributed on the mainland, as a consequence of insularity. But this can also be explained by the overexploitation of sandalwood. The differentiation between archipelagos and islands within archipelagos is very high because of the limited gene flow due to oceanic barriers. Delineation of evolutionary significant units and principles for population management are proposed based on this molecular analysis.
Clonality; conservation; endangered species; genetic diversity; genetic structure; insularity; nuclear microsatellites; Santalum insulare; French Polynesia
Background and Aims
The timing of flowering within and among individuals is of fundamental biological importance because of its influence on total seed production and, ultimately, fitness. Traditional descriptive parameters of flowering phenology focus on onset and duration of flowering and on synchrony among individuals. These parameters do not adequately account for variability in flowering across the flowering duration at individual and population level. This study aims to analyse the flowering phenology of wind-pollinated Juncus species that has been described as temporally highly variable (‘pulsed flowering’). Additionally, an attempt is made to identify proximate environmental factors that may cue the flowering, and ultimate causes for the flowering patterns are discussed.
Flowering phenology was examined in populations of nine Juncus species by estimating flowering synchrony and by using the coefficient of variation (CV) to describe the temporal variation in flowering on individual and population levels. Phenologies were compared with null models to test which patterns deviate from random flowering. All parameters assessed were compared with each other and the performance of the parameters in response to randomization and varying synchrony was evaluated using a model population. Flowering patterns were correlated with temperature and humidity.
Most flowering patterns of Juncus were best described as synchronous pulsed flowering, characterized as population-wide concerted flowering events separated by days with no or few open flowers. Flowering synchrony and variability differed from a random pattern in most cases. CV values in combination with a measure of synchrony differentiated among flowering patterns found. Synchrony varied among species and was independent from variability in flowering. Neither temperature nor humidity could be determined as potential cues for the flowering pulses.
The results indicate that selection may act independently on synchrony and variability. We propose that synchronous pulsed flowering in Juncus is an evolved strategy that provides selective benefits by increasing outcrossing and by spreading the risk of reproductive failure.
Juncus; flowering phenology; synchrony; pollination efficiency; wind pollination
Polyploid evolution is often considered a mechanism of instant speciation; yet the establishment of rare tetraploids within diploid populations may be constrained by a frequency-dependent mating disadvantage (minority cytotype exclusion principle). I tested this hypothesis using experimental populations of Chamerion angustifolium (Onagraceae) that contained different proportions of tetraploids and diploids. Fitness, measured as total seed production over the entire flowering season, was calculated from a census of flower number and estimates of ovule number per flower and proportion of seed set per fruit. The fitness of tetraploids relative to diploids was frequency dependent, increasing from 0.4, when tetraploids were rare, to 0.7 when at 50% and 1.15 when they were in the majority (67%). This pattern exists because of a negative relationship between tetraploid frequency and seed set per fruit in diploids. Seed set in tetraploids was independent of cytotype frequency. The frequency-independent effect in tetraploids reflects higher assortative mating, partly because of non-random patterns of bee visitation. Bees visited a disproportionately high number of diploid inflorescences; however, the proportion of successive flights between tetraploids increased above random expectations as the frequency of tetraploids decreased. These results provide the first experimental test of frequency-dependent fitness in diploid-polyploid mixtures and suggest an important role for more gradual, population processes governing the evolution of polyploidy in natural populations.
When growing in reciprocal patches in terms of availability of different resources, connected ramets of clonal plants will specialize to acquire and exchange locally abundant resources more efficiently. This has been termed division of labour. We asked whether division of labour can occur physiologically as well as morphologically and will increase with patch contrasts.
We subjected connected and disconnected ramet pairs of Potentilla anserina to Control, Low, Medium and High patch contrast by manipulating light and nutrient levels for ramets in each pair. Little net benefit of inter-ramet connection in terms of biomass was detected. Shoot-root ratio did not differ significantly between paired ramets regardless of connection under Control, Low and Medium. Under High, however, disconnected shaded ramets with ample nutrients showed significantly larger shoot-root ratios (2.8∼6.5 fold) than fully-lit but nutrient-deficient ramets, and than their counterparts under any other treatment; conversely, fully-lit but nutrient-deficient ramets, when connected to shaded ramets with ample nutrients, had significantly larger shoot-root ratios (2.0∼4.9 fold) than the latter and than their counterparts under any other treatment. Only under High patch contrast, fully-lit ramets, if connected to shaded ones, had 8.9% higher chlorophyll content than the latter, and 22.4% higher chlorophyll content than their isolated counterparts; the similar pattern held for photosynthetic capacity under all heterogeneous treatments.
Division of labour in clonal plants can be realized by ramet specialization in morphology and in physiology. However, modest ramet specialization especially in morphology among patch contrasts may suggest that division of labour will occur when the connected ramets grow in reciprocal patches between which the contrast exceeds a threshold. Probably, this threshold patch contrast is the outcome of the clone-wide cost-benefit tradeoff and is significant for risk-avoidance, especially in the disturbance-prone environments.
• Background and Aims In clonal plants, internode connections allow translocation of photosynthates, water, nutrients and other substances among ramets. Clonal plants form large systems that are likely to experience small-scale spatial heterogeneity. Physiological and morphological responses of Fragaria vesca to small-scale heterogeneity in soil quality were investigated, together with how such heterogeneity influences the placement of ramets. As a result of their own activities plants may modify the suitability of their habitats over time. However, most experiments on habitat selection by clonal plants have not generally considered time as an important variable. In the present study, how the foraging behaviour of clonal plants may change over time was also investigated.
• Methods In a complex of environments with different heterogeneity, plant performance was determined in terms of biomass, ramet production and photosynthetic activity. To identify habitat selection, the number of ramets produced and patch where they rooted were monitored.
• Key Results Parent ramets in heterogeneous environments showed significantly higher maximum and effective quantum yields of photosystem II than parents in homogeneous environments. Parents in heterogeneous environments also showed significantly higher investment in photosynthetic biomass and stolon/total biomass, produced longer stolons, and had higher mean leaf size than parents in homogeneous environments. Total biomass and number of offspring ramets were similar in both environments. However, plants in homogeneous environments showed random allocation of offspring ramets to surrounding patches, whereas plants in heterogeneous environments showed preferential allocation of offspring to higher-quality patches.
• Conclusions The results suggest that F. vesca employs physiological and morphological strategies to enable efficient resource foraging in heterogeneous environments and demonstrate the benefits of physiological integration in terms of photosynthetic efficiency. The findings indicate that short-term responses cannot be directly extrapolated to the longer term principally because preferential colonization of high-quality patches means that these patches eventually show reduced quality. This highlights the importance of considering the time factor in experiments examining responses of clonal plants to heterogeneity.
Chlorophyll fluorescence; foraging behaviour; Fragaria vesca; habitat selection; physiological integration; source–sink hypothesis
Floral traits within plants can vary with flower position or flowering time. Within an inflorescence, sexual allocation of early produced basal flowers is often female-biased while later produced distal flowers are male-biased. Such temporal adjustment of floral resource has been considered one of the potential advantages of modularity (regarding a flower as a module) in hermaphrodites. However, flowers are under constraints of independent evolution of a given trait. To understand flower diversification within inflorescences, here we examine variation and covariation in floral traits within racemes at the individual and the maternal family level respectively in an alpine herb Aconitum gymnandrum (Ranunculaceae).
We found that floral traits varied significantly with flower position and among families, and position effects were family-specific. Most of the variance of floral traits was among individuals rather than among flowers within individuals or among families. Significant phenotypic correlations between traits were not affected by position, indicating trait integration under shared developmental regulation. In contrast, positive family-mean correlations in floral traits declined gradually from basal to distal flowers (nine significant correlations among floral traits in basal flowers and only three in distal flowers), showing position-specificity. Therefore, the pattern and magnitude of genetic correlations decreased with flower position.
This finding on covariation pattern in floral reproductive structures within racemes has not been revealed before, providing insights into temporal variation and position effects in floral traits within plants and the potential advantages of modularity in hermaphrodites.
Background and Aims
Clonal growth is a common phenomenon in plants and allows them to persist when sexual life-cycle completion is impeded. Very low levels of recruitment from seed will ultimately result in low levels of genotypic diversity. The situation can be expected to be exacerbated in spatially isolated populations of obligated allogamous species, as low genotypic diversities will result in low availability of compatible genotypes and low reproductive success. Populations of the self-incompatible forest herb lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria majalis) were studied with the aim of inferring the relative importance of sexual and asexual recruitment. Then the aim was to establish a relationship between genotypic diversity, sexual reproduction and the local forest environment.
Highly polymorphic microsatellite markers were used to investigate clonal diversities and population genetic structure of 20 populations of C. majalis in central Belgium.
Most of the populations studied consisted of a single genotype and linkage disequilibrium within populations was high, manifesting clonal growth as the main mode of reproduction. A population consisting of multiple genotypes mainly occurred in locations with a thin litter layer and high soil phosphorus levels, suggesting environment-mediated sporadic recruitment from seed. Highly significant genetic differentiation indicated that populations are reproductively isolated. In agreement with the self-incompatibility of C. majalis, monoclonal populations showed very low or even absent fruit set.
Lack of sexual recruitment in spatially isolated C. majalis populations has resulted in almost monoclonal populations with reduced or absent sexual reproduction, potentially constraining their long-term persistence. The local forest environment may play an important role in mediating sexual recruitment in clonal forest plant species.
Convallaria majalis; clonal; genotypic diversity; population genetics; remnant populations; SSR; forest herb; rhizomatous; self-incompatible; reproductive success
Background and Aims
Small populations of rare plant species are increasingly reported to have high levels of reproductive failure. The objective of this study was to understand the principal constraints on sexual reproduction in small fragmented populations of a rare clonal self-incompatible plant.
The pollinator spectrum, diversity of flower colour, natural pollination and fruit-set levels of L. borealis were examined in Scotland. Artificially crossed seed production was compared within and between different flower colour types and patches.
Linnaea borealis was pollinated by a diverse spectrum of insect species and the principal pollinators were muscid, syrphid and empid flies which mostly moved only small distances (<0·25 m) between flowers when foraging. Natural pollination levels were high, indicating high pollinator effectiveness, but fruit set was very low in most patches. Flower colour diversity was low in most patches and only those with a diversity of flower colour types had high fruiting success. Pollination experiments showed L. borealis to be highly self-incompatible and artificial crosses within and between patches and flower colour types confirmed that low fruit success was the result of a lack of compatible mates and limited pollen movement between them. Evidence of isolation from pollen exchange was apparent at as little as 6 m and severe at 30 m and beyond.
Limited mate availability and isolation from pollen exchange compromise the reproductive success of fragmented populations of L. borealis in Scotland. A diversity of compatible mates situated within close proximity (<6 m) is the key requirement to ensure high natural fruiting success. This study emphasizes that an understanding of the breeding system, pollinator spectrum and potential for interconnectivity via pollinator movement are fundamental to identify isolation distances and to establish when conservation intervention is necessary for rare species.
Linnaea borealis; clonal; self-incompatible; reproductive failure; fragmented populations; isolation; pollination
Background and Aims
Reduction in female fitness in large clones can occur as a result of increased geitonogamous self-fertilization and its influence through inbreeding depression. This possibility was investigated in the self-compatible, bee-pollinated perennial herb Aconitum kusnezoffii which varies in clone size.
Field investigations were conducted on pollinator behaviour, flowering phenology and variation in seed set. The effects of self-pollination following controlled self- and cross-pollination were also examined. Selfing rates of differently sized clones were assessed using allozyme markers.
High rates of geitonogamous pollination were associated with large display size. Female fitness at the ramet level decreased with clone size. Fruit and seed set under cross-pollination were significantly higher than those under self-pollination. The pre-dispersal inbreeding depression was estimated as 0·502 based on the difference in seed set per flower between self- and cross-pollinated flowers. Selfing rates of differently sized clones did not differ.
It is concluded that in A. kusnezoffii the negative effects of self-pollination causing reduced female fertility with clone size arise primarily from a strong early-acting inbreeding depression leading to the abortion of selfed embryos prior to seed maturation.
Early-acting inbreeding depression; Aconitum kusnezoffii; clone size; female reproductive success; geitonogamy
Background and Aims
Knowledge of pollen dispersal patterns and variation of fecundity is essential to understanding plant evolutionary processes and to formulating strategies to conserve forest genetic resources. Nevertheless, the pollen dispersal pattern of dipterocarp, main canopy tree species in palaeo-tropical forest remains unclear, and flowering intensity variation in the field suggests heterogeneity of fecundity.
Pollen dispersal patterns and male fecundity variation of Shorea leprosula and Shorea parvifolia ssp. parvifolia on Peninsular Malaysian were investigated during two general flowering seasons (2001 and 2002), using a neighbourhood model modified by including terms accounting for variation in male fecundity among individual trees to express heterogeneity in flowering.
The pollen dispersal patterns of the two dipterocarp species were affected by differences in conspecific tree flowering density, and reductions in conspecific tree flowering density led to an increased selfing rate. Active pollen dispersal and a larger number of effective paternal parents were observed for both species in the season of greater magnitude of general flowering (2002).
The magnitude of general flowering, male fecundity variation, and distance between pollen donors and mother trees should be taken into account when attempting to predict the effects of management practices on the self-fertilization and genetic structure of key tree species in tropical forest, and also the sustainability of possible management strategies, especially selective logging regimes.
Dipterocarp; general flowering; male fecundity variation; microsatellite marker; paternity analysis; pollen dispersal; Shorea; tropical forest
Clonal plants spreading horizontally and forming a network structure of ramets exhibit complex growth patterns to maximize resource uptake from the environment. They respond to spatial heterogeneity by changing their internode length or branching frequency. Ramets definitively root in the soil but stay interconnected for a varying period of time thus allowing an exchange of spatial and temporal information. We quantified the foraging response of clonal plants depending on the local soil quality sampled by the rooting ramet (i.e. the present information) and the resource variability sampled by the older ramets (i.e. the past information). We demonstrated that two related species, Potentilla reptans and P. anserina, responded similarly to the local quality of their environment by decreasing their internode length in response to nutrient-rich soil. Only P. reptans responded to resource variability by decreasing its internode length. In both species, the experience acquired by older ramets influenced the plastic response of new rooted ramets: the internode length between ramets depended not only on the soil quality locally sampled but also on the soil quality previously sampled by older ramets. We quantified the effect of the information perceived at different time and space on the foraging behavior of clonal plants by showing a non-linear response of the ramet rooting in the soil of a given quality. These data suggest that the decision to grow a stolon or to root a ramet at a given distance from the older ramet results from the integration of the past and present information about the richness and the variability of the environment.