To share or not to share: clonal integration in a submerged macrophyte in response to light stress
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The ability of clonal plant species to share resources has been studied in many experiments. The submerged macrophyte Potamogeton perfoliatus produces interconnected ramets within short time intervals and hence may or may not share resources with ramets growing in less favourable microhabitats. From a genet point of view, sharing with ramets growing under less favourable conditions might not be an optimal strategy when photosynthates could be used to establish other ramets growing under more favourable conditions. To analyse the plasticity in clonal integration of P. perfoliatus, we set up a factorial aquaria experiment with unshaded or shaded recipient ramets (offspring), which were connected to or separated from donor ramets (parents). Increased biomass production of offspring in parent–offspring systems compared with severed offspring in both light and shade showed that ramets share resources through clonal integration. The relative translocation to the first- and second-offspring generation was influenced by habitat quality: If first-offspring ramets grew in a shaded microhabitat, second-offspring ramets clearly profited. This may be at least partially because of the fact that resources are shifted from first-offspring to second-offspring ramets, indicating controlled senescence of the first-offspring. This complex sharing behaviour might be relevant when plants produce ramets within a dense patch of macrophytes, where support of a shaded ramet might not pay off.
KeywordsClonal architecture Habitat heterogeneity Biomass allocation Potamogeton Plant senescence
We thank the Special Collaborative Project (SFB) 454 “Bodenseelitoral” at the University of Konstanz and RIZA/Lelystad for financial support and J. F. Stuefer. H. Coops, and M. Scheffer for valuable comments on an earlier version of the manuscript. Comments by two anonymous reviewers and the editor improved the manuscript considerably.
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