Journal Article

Adaptation of Rhizome Connections in Drylands: Increasing Tolerance of Clones to Wind Erosion

Fei-Hai Yu, Ning Wang, Wei-Ming He, Yu Chu and Ming Dong

in Annals of Botany

Published on behalf of The Annals of Botany Company

Volume 102, issue 4, pages 571-577
Published in print October 2008 | ISSN: 0305-7364
Published online July 2008 | e-ISSN: 1095-8290 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/aob/mcn119
Adaptation of Rhizome Connections in Drylands: Increasing Tolerance of Clones to Wind Erosion

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  • Ecology and Conservation
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Plant Sciences and Forestry

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Background and Aims

Wind erosion is a severe stress for plants in drylands, but the mechanisms by which plants withstand erosion remain largely unknown. Here, the hypothesis is tested that maintaining rhizome connections helps plants to tolerate erosion.

Methods

Five transects were established across an inland dune in Inner Mongolia, China, and measurements were made of leaf number, biomass per ramet and rhizome depth of Psammochloa villosa in 45 plots. In 40 × 40 cm plots of P. villosa on another dune, the top 15 or 30 cm of sand was removed for 1·5 or 3 months to simulate short- and long-term moderate and severe erosion, respectively, with untreated plots as controls, and the rhizomes at the edges of half of the plots were severed to mimic loss of rhizome connections.

Key Results

Leaf number and biomass per ramet showed quadric relationships with rhizome depth; when rhizomes were exposed to the air, the associated ramets either died or became very weak. Ramet number, leaf number and biomass per plot decreased with increasing erosion severity. Rhizome connections did not affect these traits under control or short-term erosion, but increased them under long-term erosion.

Conclusions

Rhizome connections alleviated the negative effects of erosion on P. villosa, very likely because the erosion-stressed ramets received water and/or photosynthates translocated from those connected ramets that were not subject to erosion. This study provides the first evidence that maintaining rhizome connections helps plants to tolerate erosion in drylands.

Keywords: Clonal integration; inland-dune grass; Psammochloa villosa; resource sharing; rhizome severing; wind erosion

Journal Article.  3770 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Ecology and Conservation ; Evolutionary Biology ; Plant Sciences and Forestry

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