Within-population variation in localized and integrated responses of Trifolium repens to biotically patchy environments
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- Turkington, R., Hamilton, R.S. & Gliddon, C. Oecologia (1991) 86: 183. doi:10.1007/BF00317530
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Genets of Trifolium repens (white clover) were collected from three patches of old permanent pasture dominated by Agrostis capillaris, Holcus lanatus or Lolium perenne. Plants derived from the genets were grown with plants of one grass species present on one side of each T. repens, and a different grass species on the other side, in all combinations of two of the three grasses. Different modules (a node with its associated internode, leaf, and axillary bud) on the same clover plant responded independently to the microenvironment provided by their own neighbouring grasses. In contrast, all apical meristems on the plant reacted similarly, showing a unified response and integrating the effects of the different microenvironments experienced by the whole clover plant. This is consistent with what is known both physiologically about the nutrition of meristems and modules, and ecologically about the exploratory growth habit of the species. Averaged over all associated grasses, there was no significant variation in the final dry weight of the different clover genets but these differed in their growth habit response to different grasses. In response to Agrostis as a neighbour, each meristem of T. repens rapidly produced many small modules. New modules were produced more slowly and were larger when Holcus or Lolium was the neighbour. The same pattern of differences occurred among clovers sampled from different backgrounds. Either genetic differences paralleled plastic responses, or plastic changes in phenotype that developed in response to different neighbours in the field persisted in the greenhouse. Plants taken from backgrounds of different grass species showed different responses to growing with those grass species. The differences were manifest primarily in a “positive leading diagonal” effect of Holcus or not-Holcus. They were the result primarily of differences in the dry weight per module and the probability of development of the axillary bud into a branch. This confirms earlier results, and implicates the central importance of branching as a means of local response to the microenvironment.