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Clonal integration in Fragaria vesca growing in metal-polluted soils: parents face penalties for establishing their offspring in unsuitable environments


Clonal plants often establish descendent ramets in sites with contrasting presence of favourable and unfavourable factors. Connections between ramets allow translocation of essential resources from established ramets to developing ramets and, as consequence, integration confers net benefits to ramets growing under unfavourable conditions. Therefore, integrated ramets may survive in habitat patches that would be lethal to independent ramets or non-clonal plants. This experiment aimed to investigate the physiological and morphological responses of the clonal plant Fragaria vesca growing in heterogeneous substrate with patches of contrasting quality (i.e. uncontaminated or heavy-metal-contaminated). We observed that parents reduced their photosynthetic efficiencies and growth as consequence of maintaining their offspring. This cost did not affect survival of the parents. Physiological integration brings about benefits to offspring ramets growing both at uncontaminated and heavy-metal-contaminated soils. The benefits of integration were detected in both physiological and morphological traits, enhancing the survivorship of offspring ramets in the Cu-polluted soils. We conclude that integration improves the performance of developing ramets of F. vesca growing in heavy-metal-contaminated habitats, allowing clone systems to overcome the establishment risks and maintain their presence in these less favourable sites.

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We thank P.M. Otero-Loureiro and Cristina Iglesias for greenhouse and laboratory assistance, R. Bermúdez for field plant collection and Mercedes Noya for chemical analyses. S.R.R. was supported by a postdoctoral grant from the University of Santiago de Compostela (Spain).

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Correspondence to Sergio R. Roiloa.

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Roiloa, S.R., Retuerto, R. Clonal integration in Fragaria vesca growing in metal-polluted soils: parents face penalties for establishing their offspring in unsuitable environments. Ecol Res 27, 95–106 (2012).

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  • Chlorophyll fluorescence
  • Clonal growth
  • Environmental heterogeneity
  • Heavy-metal pollution
  • Spectral reflectance