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The Relative Contributions of Sexual Reproduction and Clonal Propagation in Opuntia rastrera from Two Habitats in the Chihuahuan Desert
Maria del Carmen Mandujano, Carlos Montana, Ignacio Mendez and Jordan Golubov
Journal of Ecology
Vol. 86, No. 6 (Dec., 1998), pp. 911-921
Published by: British Ecological Society
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2648656
Page Count: 11
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1 The clonal cactus Opuntia rastrera shows predominantly sexual reproduction in grasslands (GH) and clonal propagation in nopaleras (NH). We assessed the effects of light, herbivory, water availability and the habitat an offspring came from on the survival and growth of sexual or clonal offspring (i.e. seedlings and cladodes), through 3- and 4-year common garden and short-term greenhouse experiments. 2 Shading by nurse plants increased seedling survival in the field by an order of magnitude, and a small additional advantage due to predator protection by grasses was observed. Strong herbivory transforms a facultative nurse-protege relationship for seedlings into an obligatory one. 3 In the greenhouse seedlings grew better under shade, but in the field the production of the first cladode was delayed in seedlings in the more shaded GH. Competition for soil resources may be more intense under a dense grass tussock than under a open shrub, thus affecting the nurse-protege relationship. Seedling survival under nurse plants was similar in GH and NH, but higher plant cover suggests that a larger number of seedlings will establish in GH in the long term. 4 Cladode survival was higher in NH. Cladodes were more successful than seedlings at establishing in intercanopy areas, possibly due to physiological differences as well as their ability to survive partial predation. Cladode survival in intercanopy areas may explain the enhanced clonal propagation in the more open NH scrubland, together with their susceptibility to the flooding which affects GH. 5 The high seedling and cladode survival in the greenhouse experiments contrasted with that observed in the field, indicating that survival is determined by the interaction between herbivores, plants and abiotic conditions rather than the physiological aptitude of the plants.
Journal of Ecology © 1998 British Ecological Society