Physiological integration can increase competitive ability in clonal plants if competition is patchy.

Abstract:

:Physiological integration of connected plants of the same clone, or ramets, often increases clonal fitness when ramets differ in resource supply. However, review of the literature found that no study has directly tested the hypothesis that integration can increase the ability of clones to compete against other species. To test this, we grew two-ramet clonal fragments of the stoloniferous, perennial herb Fragaria chiloensis in which none, one, or both of the ramets had neighbors of a naturally co-occurring, dominant grass, Bromus carinatus, and connections between ramets were either severed to prevent integration or left intact. We also grew four-ramet fragments in which all ramets had neighbors and connections were severed or intact. Severance decreased the final leaf mass and area of two-ramet fragments by 25% and their final total mass by 15% when just one ramet was grown with B. carinatus. Severance had no significant effect on the total mass of fragments when none or all of the ramets were grown with the grass. This provides the first direct evidence that physiological integration can increase the competitive ability of clonal plant species, though only when competition is spatially heterogeneous. Integration may thus enable plant clones to grow into plant communities and to compete within communities with fine-scale disturbance. However, integration may not increase the competitive ability of clonal plants within uniformly dense communities of taller species.

journal_name

Oecologia

journal_title

Oecologia

authors

Wang P,Alpert P,Yu FH

doi

10.1007/s00442-020-04823-5

subject

Has Abstract

pub_date

2021-01-04 00:00:00

eissn

0029-8549

issn

1432-1939

pii

10.1007/s00442-020-04823-5

pub_type

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