Evolutionary Ecology

, Volume 18, Issue 5–6, pp 647–667 | Cite as

Clonal integration beyond resource sharing: implications for defence signalling and disease transmission in clonal plant networks

  • Josef F. Stuefer
  • Sara Gómez
  • Tamara van Mölken
Research Article


Resource sharing between ramets of clonal plants is a well-known phenomenon, which allows stoloniferous and rhizomatous species to internally translocate water, mineral nutrients and carbohydrates from sites of high supply to sites of high demand. The mechanisms and implications of resource integration in clonal plants have extensively been studied in the past. Vascular ramet connections are likely to provide an excellent means to share substances other than resources, such as systemic defence signals and pathogens. The aim of this paper is to propose the idea that physical ramet connections of clonal plants can be used (1) to transmit signals, which enable members of clonal plant networks to share information about their biotic and abiotic environments, and (2) to facilitate the internal distribution of systemic pathogens in clonal plant networks and populations. We will focus on possible mechanisms as well as on potential ecological and evolutionary implications of clonal integration beyond resource sharing. More specifically, we will explore the role of physiological integration in clonal plant networks for the systemic transmission of direct and indirect defence signals after localized herbivore attack. We propose that sharing defence induction signals among ramets may be the basis for an efficient early warning system, and it may allow for effective indirect defence signalling to herbivore enemies through a systemic release of volatiles from entire clonal fragments. In addition, we will examine the role of clonal integration for the internal spread of systemic pathogens and pathogen defence signals within clonal plants. Clonal plants may use developmental mechanisms such as increased flowering and clone fragmentation, but also specific biochemical defence strategies to fight pathogens. We propose that clonal plant networks can act as stores and vectors of diseases in plant populations and communities and that clonal life histories favour the evolution of pathogens with a low virulence.


Resource Sharing Early Warning System Clonal Plant Defence Signal Herbivore Attack 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Josef F. Stuefer
    • 1
  • Sara Gómez
    • 1
  • Tamara van Mölken
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of EcologyRadboud University NijmegenNijmegenThe Netherlands

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