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Clonal Foraging in Perennial Wheatgrasses: A Strategy for Exploiting Patchy Soil Nutrients

L. David Humphrey and David A. Pyke
Journal of Ecology
Vol. 85, No. 5 (Oct., 1997), pp. 601-610
DOI: 10.2307/2960531
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2960531
Page Count: 10
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Clonal Foraging in Perennial Wheatgrasses: A Strategy for Exploiting Patchy Soil Nutrients
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Abstract

1 Foraging by means of plasticity in placement of tillers in response to low- and high-nutrient patches was examined in the rhizomatous wheatgrass Elymus lanceolatus ssp. lanceolatus. Its ability to exploit soil nutrient patches was compared to that of the closely related but caespitose E. lanceolatus ssp. wawawaiensis. 2 Clones of 14 genets of each taxon were planted in boxes consisting of two 30 × 30 cm cells: the `origin cell' where clones were planted, and the adjacent `destination cell', with each cell containing soil with either low or high levels of nutrients. 3 The rhizomatous taxon, which can produce intravaginal, short-rhizome and long-rhizome tillers, preferentially produced short-rhizome and intravaginal tillers in high-nutrient destination cells. Effects of nutrient status of the origin cell as well as of the destination cell on total tiller numbers indicated clonal integration, yet tiller placement responded to local conditions. 4 Roots of both taxa accessed nutrients in destination cells (the caespitose subspecies by root growth only), and above-ground biomass of both taxa increased to a similar extent with high-nutrient destination cells. With the patch sizes used in this experiment, root growth was as important as ramet placement in exploiting nutrients in destination cells. 5 There was no relationship between degree of plasticity in ramet placement and biomass of the clone when high-nutrient destination cells were present.

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