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Enforced clonality confers a fitness advantage

By Jana eMartínková and Jitka eKlimešová


In largely clonal plants, splitting of a maternal plant into potentially independent plants (ramets) is usually spontaneous; however, such fragmentation also occurs in otherwise non-clonal species due to application of external force. This process might play an important yet largely overlooked role for otherwise non-clonal plants by providing a mechanism to regenerate after disturbance. Here, in a five-year garden experiment on two short-lived, otherwise non-clonal species, Barbarea vulgaris and Barbarea stricta, we compared the fitness of plants fragmented by simulated disturbance (enforced ramets) both with plants that contemporaneously originate in seed and with individuals unscathed by the disturbance event. Because the ability to regrow from fragments is related to plant age and stored reserves, we compared the effects of disturbance applied during three different ontogenetic stages of the plants. In B. vulgaris, enforced ramet fitness was higher than the measured fitness values of both uninjured plants and plants established from seed after the disturbance. This advantage decreased with increasing plant age at the time of fragmentation. In B. stricta, enforced ramet fitness was lower than or similar to fitness of uninjured plants and plants grown from seed. Our results likely reflect the habitat preferences of the study species, as B. vulgaris occurs in anthropogenic, disturbed habitats where body fragmentation is more probable and enforced clonality thus more advantageous than in the more natural habitats preferred by B. stricta. Generalizing from our results, we see that increased fitness yielded by enforced clonality would confer an evolutionary advantage in the face of disturbance, especially in habitats where a seed bank has not been formed, e.g. during invasion or colonization. Our results thus imply that enforced clonality should be taken into account when studying population dynamics and life strategies of otherwise non-clonal species in disturbed habitats

Topics: fitness, Ontogeny, Life strategy, disturbance, Bud bank, Ramet, Plant culture, SB1-1110
Publisher: Frontiers Media S.A.
Year: 2016
DOI identifier: 10.3389/fpls.2016.00002
OAI identifier: oai:doaj.org/article:ec636bd981a24e2c8847ff1a2fd248da
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