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Does Clonal Integration Improve Competitive Ability? A Test Using Aspen (Populus tremuloides [Salicaceae]) Invasion into Prairie

Duane A. Peltzer
American Journal of Botany
Vol. 89, No. 3 (Mar., 2002), pp. 494-499
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4131370
Page Count: 6
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Does Clonal Integration Improve Competitive Ability? A Test Using Aspen (Populus tremuloides [Salicaceae]) Invasion into Prairie
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Abstract

Many clonal plants consist of many connected individual ramets, allowing them to share water and nutrients via physiological integration. Integration among ramets may also improve the ability of clonal plants to tolerate abiotic stress or improve the competitive ability of individual ramets. Here I use a field experiment to determine whether clonal integration improves ramet performance for a widespread clonal tree species invading into native prairie. Aspen (Populus tremuloides) dominates the southern treeline in western Canada, has long-lived belowground connections between mother and daughter ramets, and reproduces vegetatively via resprouting rhizomes after disturbance. I applied two competition treatments (neighbors present or absent) and two clonal integration treatments (belowground rhizomes between mother and daughter ramets either severed or left intact) to 12 replicate Populus daughter ramets at each of three sites. Neighbors improved the survivorship of Populus ramets by 25-35% after 2 yr. but decreased growth by ~20%. Clonal integration tended to improve ramet survival and growth, but these trends were often not significant. Clonal integration did not alter the effects of competition from neighboring vegetation, suggesting that connections between ramets do not necessarily improve the competitive ability of Populus invading into native prairie.

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