The compromising foraging of a clonal submerged plant in variable environments of substrate type a

Tong Wang, Xi Li, Chun-Hua Liu* and Dan Yu   2017-07-04 23:26:13

The National Field Station of Freshwater Ecosystem of Liangzi Lake, Department of Ecology, College of Life Sciences, Wuhan University, No. 299 Bayi Road, Wuchang District, Wuhan 430072, China

*Correspondence address. Laboratory of Aquatic Plants, Department of Ecology, College of Life Sciences, Wuhan University, No. 299 Bayi Road, Wuchang District, Wuhan 430072, China. Tel: +86-27-68756834;Fax: +86-27-68752560; E-mail: liuchh@163.com

Journal of Plant Ecology

VOLUME 10, NUMBER 3, PAGES 538–545

June 2017

doi: 10.1093/jpe/rtw046

Advance Access publication 17 May 2016

available online at academic.oup.com/jpe

Abstract

Aims

Foraging behavior was concerned less in plants especially for clonal aquatic species. The goal of this study was to test the foraging behavior and the function of phenotypic plasticity of a clonal submerged plant, Potamogeton maackianus A. Benn in variable manipulative environments.

Methods

To explore the foraging behavior of a clonal submerged plant, clones of P.  maackianus were cultivated in variable environments of different substrate types and light conditions. We measured biomass, specific root area (SRA), specific root length (SRL), branching angle of the ramet, chlorophyll content of apical leaves (CCAL), Fv/Fm (chlorophyll fluorescence parameter that indicates maximal photosystem II (PS II) efficiency) and biomass distribution in soil and light contrast treatments after harvest.

Important Findings

We found that the atypical non-clonal-like foraging behavior homogenized the performance of the stoloniferous clonal spe cies, P.  maackianus, in the measurement of biomass in our study. Substrate type had significant effects on most traits of P. maackianus, except on total biomass, shoot biomass distribution and CCAL. Patchy substrate mediated more root distribution into sand patch rather than into clay patch. Increase of SRA, SRL and Fv/Fm might be adaptive to substrate heterogeneity. Moreover, substrate heterogeneity induced ‘sidewalk’ stolon lineage on the edge of sand patch along the patch border. Light condition only had significant effects on branching angle, shoot biomass distribution and Fv/Fm. Shade led to more shoot assignment in light-rich zone than in light-poor zone. Potamogeton maackianus adjusted the branching angle of ramet rather than clonal exploitation in heterogeneous substrates with patchy shade. Moreover, shade led to higher Fv/Fm. A  compromising foraging strategy promoted P. maackianus to escape unfavorable environments. Phenotypic plasticity, which maximized the performance of P.  maackianus in the measurement of biomass in variable environments, may explain its domination in some shallow lakes of the middle and lower reaches of Yangtze River.

Keywords: environment heterogeneity, foraging behavior, phenotypic plasticity, performance maximization, aquatic plant, Potamogeton maackianus

Received: 16 October 2015, Revised: 7 March 2016, Accepted: 9 May 2016

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