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Clonal plants as cooperative systems: benefits in heterogeneous environments

journal contribution
posted on 2023-06-07, 21:48 authored by Michael Hutchings
All natural environments are spatially and temporally heterogeneous. Consequently, their ability to provide essential resources for the growth of plants is variable. Modular plant species produce repeated basic structures which, in the case of clonal species, are called ramets. Ramets belonging to the same clone are distributed throughout the environment in space and time, and therefore they may be located in sites which differ in resource-providing quality. The connections between ramets may allow resources to be shared, enabling the clone to behave as a cooperative system. As a result of such physiological integration, ramets can survive in conditions where there is lethal shortage of a resource because they are connected to, and supported by, ramets located in conditions where there is ample supply of the same resource. Physiological integration between connected ramets presents opportunities for heterogeneous environments to be exploited to an extent that is only just becoming apparent. As heterogeneity is ubiquitous in natural environments, it may be expected that plants, as relatively immobile organisms, will have evolved the capacity to cope with it by making appropriate localized morphological and/or physiological plastic responses. Recent studies suggest that such responses not only enable clonal species to cope with environmental heterogeneity, but that under some circumstances they can benefit more from environments which are heterogeneous rather than homogeneous, even when both types of environment contain the same amount of resources. Studies on Glechoma hederacea (Lamiaceae) that illustrate this phenomenon are described.


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  • Published


Plant Species Biology









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  • Biology and Environmental Science Publications

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