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1.  Phenotypic traits of Phragmites australis clones are not related to ploidy level and distribution range 
AoB Plants  2012;2012:pls017.
The present study reveals significant genetically determined differences in a range of growth and ecophysiological traits between different Phragmites australis genotypes, and provides evidence that the differences are neither related to ploidy level per se nor to the phylogeographic relationships of the genotypes.
Background and aims
Phragmites australis is a wetland grass with high genetic variability, augmented by its cosmopolitan distribution, clonal growth form and large variation in chromosome numbers. Different ploidy levels and ecotypes differ in morphology and ecophysiological traits, and may possess different levels of phenotypic variation. The aim of this study was to quantify the natural variation in ecophysiological characteristics of P. australis, and to explore whether differences in ecophysiological traits can be related to ploidy levels or to the geographic origin of the clones.
Methodology
Fifteen clones of P. australis from Europe and Asia/Australia, representing five ploidy levels (4x, 6x, 8x, 10x and 12x), were grown in a common garden design for 119 days. Plant growth and light-saturated rate of photosynthesis (Pmax), stomatal conductance (gs), water use efficiency (WUE) and concentrations of photosynthetic pigments and mineral ions in the leaves were measured.
Principal results
The growth of the plants and most ecophysiological parameters differed significantly between clones. The mean maximum shoot height varied from 0.9 to 1.86 m, Pmax from 9.7 to 27 µmol m−2 s−1, gs from 0.22 to 1.41 mol m−2 s−1 and WUE from 13 to 47 µmol mol−1. The concentrations of chlorophylls did not vary significantly between clones, but the chlorophyll a/b ratio and the concentrations of total carotenoids did. The observed differences were not explained either by the ploidy level per se or by the geographic origin or phylogenetic relationships of the clones.
Conclusions
Phylogeographic relationships in P. australis on a global scale do not mirror the environment where the adaptations have evolved, and high phenotypic variation among and within clones complicates comparative studies. Future studies aimed at explaining differences in plant behaviour between P. australis populations should be careful in the selection of target genotypes and/or populations, and should avoid generalizing their findings beyond the genotypes and/or populations studied.
doi:10.1093/aobpla/pls017
PMCID: PMC3407373  PMID: 22848787
2.  Exploring the borders of European Phragmites within a cosmopolitan genus 
AoB Plants  2012;2012:pls020.
European Phragmites australis is one of four main cp-DNA haplotype clusters present worldwide. The European gene pool extends from North America to Far East Asia and South Africa. Extensive gene flow occurs only within the temperate region of Europe.
Background and aims
Two Phragmites australis taxa are recognized in Europe: P. australis ssp. altissimus, also known as Phragmites isiaca, in the Mediterranean region and P. australis in the temperate region. Another taxonomic group in the Mediterranean is Phragmites frutescens. European genotypes are diverse genetically, cytologically and morphologically, and are related to African, Asiatic and American genotypes. We investigated chloroplast DNA (cpDNA) diversity in Europe and defined the current borders of the European gene pool.
Methodology
We analysed chloroplast variation with parsimony and genetic distance methods, and compared it with that of nuclear amplified fragment length polymorphism and microsatellites. We also investigated the phenological pattern of 188 genotypes collected worldwide in a common garden in Denmark. We assumed that non-flowering genotypes could indicate climatic, geographic and/or reproductive barriers to dispersal and would have been recorded in the genetic pattern as groups genetically isolated from, or within, the European pool.
Principal results
The European P. australis gene pool extends from North America to the Far East and South Africa. However, African and North American genotypes are differentiating from the European genotypes. Mediterranean P. australis is genetically different from temperate P. australis and shares several similarities with Phragmites mauritianus in Africa and Phragmites karka in Asia. Phragmites frutescens shares the cpDNA sequences with both these tropical species. Two DNA bands can distinguish Mediterranean P. australis from P. frutescens and P. mauritianus and from temperate P. australis, and reveal possible hybrids among these species in the Mediterranean region. Phenological data confirmed possible gene flow within the temperate region of Europe, whereas the Mediterranean genotypes did not set inflorescences in Denmark, suggesting reproductive barriers between temperate and Mediterranean P. australis.
Conclusions
European P. australis appears as one of four main Phragmites groups known in the world. Further research is needed to understand the implications of long-distance dispersal at the population level.
doi:10.1093/aobpla/pls020
PMCID: PMC3435523  PMID: 22962631
3.  Regression analysis of growth responses to water depth in three wetland plant species 
AoB Plants  2012;2012:pls043.
Variability in plant flooding tolerance is often associated with differential growth responses to increasing water depth. This study highlights how morphological responses conferring flooding tolerance differ, using non-linear and quantile regression to quantitatively compare flooding-related growth responses of three species.
Background and aims
Plant species composition in wetlands and on lakeshores often shows dramatic zonation, which is frequently ascribed to differences in flooding tolerance. This study compared the growth responses to water depth of three species (Phormium tenax, Carex secta and Typha orientalis) differing in depth preferences in wetlands, using non-linear and quantile regression analyses to establish how flooding tolerance can explain field zonation.
Methodology
Plants were established for 8 months in outdoor cultures in waterlogged soil without standing water, and then randomly allocated to water depths from 0 to 0.5 m. Morphological and growth responses to depth were followed for 54 days before harvest, and then analysed by repeated-measures analysis of covariance, and non-linear and quantile regression analysis (QRA), to compare flooding tolerances.
Principal results
Growth responses to depth differed between the three species, and were non-linear. Phormium tenax growth decreased rapidly in standing water >0.25 m depth, C. secta growth increased initially with depth but then decreased at depths >0.30 m, accompanied by increased shoot height and decreased shoot density, and T. orientalis was unaffected by the 0- to 0.50-m depth range. In P. tenax the decrease in growth was associated with a decrease in the number of leaves produced per ramet and in C. secta the effect of water depth was greatest for the tallest shoots. Allocation patterns were unaffected by depth.
Conclusions
The responses are consistent with the principle that zonation in the field is primarily structured by competition in shallow water and by physiological flooding tolerance in deep water. Regression analyses, especially QRA, proved to be powerful tools in distinguishing genuine phenotypic responses to water depth from non-phenotypic variation due to size and developmental differences.
doi:10.1093/aobpla/pls043
PMCID: PMC3526336  PMID: 23259044

Results 1-3 (3)