Long-term functional plasticity in plant hydraulic architecture in response to supplemental moisture

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

52 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Background and Aims: Plasticity in structural and functional traits related to water balance may determine plant performance and survival in ecosystems characterized by water limitation or high levels of rainfall variability, particularly in perennial herbaceous species with long generation cycles. This paper addresses whether and the extent to which several such seasonal to long-term traits respond to changes in moisture availability. Methods: Using a novel approach that integrates ecology, physiology and anatomy, a comparison was made of lifetime functional traits in the root xylem of a long-lived perennial herb (Potentilla diversifolia, Rosaceae) growing in dry habitats with those of nearby individuals growing where soil moisture had been supplemented for 14 years. Traditional parameters such as specific leaf area (SLA) and above-ground growth were also assessed. Key Results: Individuals from the site receiving supplemental moisture consistently showed significant responses in all considered traits related to water balance: SLA was greater by 24 ; roots developed 19 less starch storing tissue, an indicator for drought-stress tolerance; and vessel size distributions shifted towards wider elements that collectively conducted water 54 more efficiently - but only during the years for which moisture was supplemented. In contrast, above-ground growth parameters showed insignificant or inconsistent responses. Conclusions: The phenotypic changes documented represent consistent, dynamic responses to increased moisture availability that should increase plant competitive ability. The functional plasticity of xylem anatomy quantified in this study constitutes a mechanistic basis for anticipating the differential success of plant species in response to climate variability and change, particularly where water limitation occurs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1091-1100
Number of pages10
JournalAnnals of Botany
Volume109
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2012

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fluid mechanics
water balance
xylem
leaf area
Potentilla
water
xylem vessels
Rosaceae
drought tolerance
herbs
physiology
soil water
starch
climate
rain
ecology
ecosystems
habitats
methodology
tissues

Keywords

  • Alpine tundra
  • climate change
  • drought stress
  • functional anatomy
  • herb-chronology
  • hydraulic conductivity
  • intervascular xylem
  • phenotypic plasticity
  • Potentilla diversifolia
  • specific leaf area
  • starch
  • vessel size

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Plant Science

Cite this

Long-term functional plasticity in plant hydraulic architecture in response to supplemental moisture. / Von Arx, Georg; Archer, Steve; Hughes, Malcolm.

In: Annals of Botany, Vol. 109, No. 6, 05.2012, p. 1091-1100.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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