Environmental heterogeneity and clonal plants: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
Hutchings, Michael J*,1, 1 University of Sussex, Brighton, Sussex, United Kingdom
ABSTRACT- Although all natural environments are spatially and temporally patchy at scales relevant to plants, until recently, few ecologists apart from those studying clonal species have examined the responses of plants to heterogeneous growing conditions. It is now widely recognized that the modular structure of both clonal and non-clonal plants provides the possibility of using heterogeneity to their advantage. In clonal species, there are striking localized morphological and physiological responses to variation in resource supply. Localised plastic responses can also be considerably modified by physiological integration, resource-sharing and division of labour between plant parts located in different quality habitat patches. Localized responses to local growing conditions, and their modification as a result of integration with connected plant parts in contrasting conditions, create the capacity for great flexibility in plant form and patterns of resource allocation. Compared with plants in equivalent homogeneous conditions, this can lead to performance being significantly enhanced or suppressed in environments with different types of heterogeneity. Experiments will be described using clonal species illustrating local and non-local morphological responses to environmental heterogeneity, and the consequences for both local and total performance.
Key words: Physiological integration, Herbaceous species, Clonal plants
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