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1.  Mixed mating system in the fern Asplenium scolopendrium: implications for colonization potential 
Annals of Botany  2010;106(4):583-590.
Background and Aims
Human-mediated environmental change is increasing selection pressure for the capacity in plants to colonize new areas. Habitat fragmentation combined with climate change, in general, forces species to colonize areas over longer distances. Mating systems and genetic load are important determinants of the establishment and long-term survival of new populations. Here, the mating system of Asplenium scolopendrium, a diploid homosporous fern species, is examined in relation to colonization processes.
A common environment experiment was conducted with 13 pairs of sporophytes, each from a different site. Together they constitute at least nine distinct genotypes, representing an estimated approx. 95 % of the non-private intraspecific genetic variation in Europe. Sporophyte production was recorded for gametophytes derived from each parent sporophyte. Gametophytes were grown in vitro in three different ways: (I) in isolation, (II) with a gametophyte from a different sporophyte within the same site or (III) with a partner from a different site.
Key Results
Sporophyte production was highest in among-site crosses (III), intermediate in within-site crosses (II) and was lowest in isolated gametophytes (I), strongly indicating inbreeding depression. However, intragametophytic selfing was observed in most of the genotypes tested (eight out of nine).
The results imply a mixed mating system in A. scolopendrium, with outcrossing when possible and occasional selfing when needed. Occasional intragametophytic selfing facilitates the successful colonization of new sites from a single spore. The resulting sporophyte, which will be completely homozygous, will shed large amounts of spores over time. Each year this creates a bed of gametophytes in the vicinity of the parent. Any unrelated spore which arrives is then selectively favoured to reproduce and contribute its genes to the new population. Thus, while selfing facilitates initial colonization success, inbreeding depression promotes genetically diverse populations through outcrossing. The results provide further evidence against the overly simple dichotomous distinction of fern species as either selfing or outcrossing.
PMCID: PMC2944980  PMID: 20682575
Asplenium scolopendrium; colonization; gametophyte; homosporous fern; inbreeding depression; life history; mixed mating system; selfing; sporophyte
2.  Genotype–density interactions in a clonal, rosette-forming plant: cost of increased height growth? 
Annals of Botany  2009;105(1):79-88.
Background and Aims
Game theoretical models predict that plants growing in dense stands invest so much biomass in height growth that it trades-off with investment in other organs such as the leaves, leading to decreased plant production. Using the stoloniferous plant Potentilla reptans, we tested the hypothesis that genotypes investing more in the petioles in response to increased density show a greater decrease in total plant mass. We also tested whether a greater increase in mother ramet investment would lead to a greater decrease in investment in vegetative propagation.
To uncouple costs and benefits of investments in petioles, ten genotypes that were known to differ in their response to shading signals were grown in monogenotypic stands at two different densities.
Key Results
Genotypes differed in their increase in petiole investment in response to an increase in density, but not in their decrease in total plant mass or root mass. Total lamina area per plant did not differ significantly between the densities, nor did the mass invested in the laminae per unit of total plant mass. Genotypes differed considerably in the change in vegetation height and petiole investment, but this was not significantly negatively correlated with the change in total plant mass. The genotypes did differ in the change of mass investment in the mother ramet: a greater increase in investment in the mother ramet was correlated to a greater decrease in vegetative propagation.
While a greater increase in height investment did not lead to a greater decrease in biomass production, it did lead to a decrease in vegetative propagation. This ability to change allocation towards the mother ramets may imply that competition within a stand of stoloniferous plants does not necessarily result in lower total biomass production due to increased height investment.
PMCID: PMC2794066  PMID: 19884156
Clonal; competition; costs; density; height; light; plasticity; Potentilla reptans; reproduction; tragedy of the commons
3.  Leaf Investment and Light Partitioning among Leaves of Different Genotypes of the Clonal Plant Potentilla reptans in a Dense Stand after 5 Years of Competition 
Annals of Botany  2008;102(6):935-943.
Background and Aims
While within-species competition for light is generally found to be asymmetric – larger plants absorbing more than proportional amounts of light – between-species competition tends to be more symmetric. Here, the light capture was analysed in a 5-year-old competition experiment that started with ten genotypes of the clonal plant Potentilla reptans. The following hypotheses were tested: (a) if different genotypes would do better in different layers of the canopy, thereby promoting coexistence, and (b) if leaves and genotypes with higher total mass captured more than proportional amounts of light, possibly explaining the observed dominance of the abundant genotypes.
In eight plots, 100 leaves were harvested at various depths in the canopy and their genotype determined to test for differences in leaf biomass allocation, leaf characteristics and the resulting light capture, calculated through a canopy model using the actual vertical light and leaf area profiles. Light capture was related to biomass to determine whether light competition between genotypes was asymmetric.
Key Results
All genotypes could reach the top of the canopy. The genotypes differed in morphology, but did not differ significantly in light capture per unit mass (Φmass) for leaves with the laminae placed at the same light levels. Light capture did increase disproportionately with leaf mass for all genotypes. However, the more abundant genotypes did not capture disproportionately more light relative to their mass than less-abundant genotypes.
Vertical niche differentiation in light acquisition does not appear to be a factor that could promote coexistence between these genotypes. Contrary to what is generally assumed, light competition among genetic individuals of the same species was size-symmetric, even if taller individual leaves did capture disproportionately more light. The observed shifts in genotype frequency cannot therefore be explained by asymmetric competition for light.
PMCID: PMC2712402  PMID: 18840875
Potentilla reptans; light; competition; symmetric; clonal; genotype; investment; petiole; canopy; allocation
4.  Comparative Cryptogam Ecology: A Review of Bryophyte and Lichen Traits that Drive Biogeochemistry 
Annals of Botany  2007;99(5):987-1001.
Recent decades have seen a major surge in the study of interspecific variation in functional traits in comparative plant ecology, as a tool to understanding and predicting ecosystem functions and their responses to environmental change. However, this research has been biased almost exclusively towards vascular plants. Very little is known about the role and applicability of functional traits of non-vascular cryptogams, particularly bryophytes and lichens, with respect to biogeochemical cycling. Yet these organisms are paramount determinants of biogeochemistry in several biomes, particularly cold biomes and tropical rainforests, where they: (1) contribute substantially to above-ground biomass (lichens, bryophytes); (2) host nitrogen-fixing bacteria, providing major soil N input (lichens, bryophytes); (3) control soil chemistry and nutrition through the accumulation of recalcitrant polyphenols (bryophytes) and through their control over soil and vegetation hydrology and temperatures; (4) both promote erosion (rock weathering by lichens) and prevent it (biological crusts in deserts); (5) provide a staple food to mammals such as reindeer (lichens) and arthropodes, with important feedbacks to soils and biota; and (6) both facilitate and compete with vascular plants.
Here we review current knowledge about interspecific variation in cryptogam traits with respect to biogeochemical cycling and discuss to what extent traits and measuring protocols needed for bryophytes and lichens correspond with those applied to vascular plants. We also propose and discuss several new or recently introduced traits that may help us understand and predict the control of cryptogams over several aspects of the biogeochemistry of ecosystems.
Whilst many methodological challenges lie ahead, comparative cryptogam ecology has the potential to meet some of the important challenges of understanding and predicting the biogeochemical and climate consequences of large-scale environmental changes driving shifts in the cryptogam components of vegetation composition.
PMCID: PMC2802918  PMID: 17353205
Biogeochemical processes; carbon; cryptogam; decomposition; defence; functional trait; growth rate; interspecific variation; moss; lichen; liverwort; nutrients

Results 1-4 (4)