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The role of heterotrophic carbon acquisition by the hemiparasitic plant Rhinanthus alectorolophus in seedling establishment in natural communities: a physiological perspective

Jakub Těšitel, Jan Lepš, Martina Vráblová and Duncan D. Cameron
The New Phytologist
Vol. 192, No. 1 (October 2011), pp. 188-199
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the New Phytologist Trust
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41320471
Page Count: 12
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Abstract

Heterotrophic acquisition of substantial amounts of organic carbon by hemiparasitic plants was clearly demonstrated by numerous studies. Many hemiparasites are, however, also limited by competition for light preventing the establishment of their populations on highly productive sites. In a growth-chamber experiment, we investigated the effects of competition for light, simulated by shading, on growth and heterotrophic carbon acquisition by the hemiparasite Rhinanthus alectorolophus attached to C₃ and C₄ hosts using analyses of biomass production and stable isotopes of carbon. Shading had a detrimental effect on biomass production and vertical growth of the hemiparasites shaded from when they were seedlings, while shading imposed later caused only a moderate decrease of biomass production and had no effect on the height. Moreover, shading increased the proportion of host-derived carbon in hemiparasite biomass (up to 50% in shaded seedlings). These results demonstrate that host-derived carbon can play a crucial role in carbon budget of hemiparasites, especially if they grow in a productive environment with intense competition for light. The heterotrophic carbon acquisition can allow hemiparasite establishment in communities of moderate productivity, helping wellattached hemiparasites to escape from the critical seedling stage.

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