Journal Article

Variation in flooding-induced morphological traits in natural populations of white clover (<i>Trifolium repens</i>) and their effects on plant performance during soil flooding

Heidrun Huber, Elke Jacobs and Eric J. W. Visser

in Annals of Botany

Published on behalf of The Annals of Botany Company

Volume 103, issue 2, pages 377-386
Published in print January 2009 | ISSN: 0305-7364
Published online August 2008 | e-ISSN: 1095-8290 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/aob/mcn149
Variation in flooding-induced morphological traits in natural populations of white clover (Trifolium repens) and their effects on plant performance during soil flooding

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

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Background and Aims

Soil flooding leads to low soil oxygen concentrations and thereby negatively affects plant growth. Differences in flooding tolerance have been explained by the variation among species in the extent to which traits related to acclimation were expressed. However, our knowledge of variation within natural species (i.e. among individual genotypes) in traits related to flooding tolerance is very limited. Such data could tell us on which traits selection might have taken place, and will take place in future. The aim of the present study was to show that variation in flooding-tolerance-related traits is present among genotypes of the same species, and that both the constitutive variation and the plastic variation in flooding-induced changes in trait expression affect the performance of genotypes during soil flooding.

Methods

Clones of Trifolium repens originating from a river foreland were subjected to either drained, control conditions or to soil flooding. Constitutive expression of morphological traits was recorded on control plants, and flooding-induced changes in expression were compared with these constitutive expression levels. Moreover, the effect of both constitutive and flooding-induced trait expression on plant performance was determined.

Key Results

Constitutive and plastic variation of several morphological traits significantly affected plant performance. Even relatively small increases in root porosity and petiole length contributed to better performance during soil flooding. High specific leaf area, by contrast, was negatively correlated with performance during flooding.

Conclusions

The data show that different genotypes responded differently to soil flooding, which could be linked to variation in morphological trait expression. As flooded and drained conditions exerted different selection pressures on trait expression, the optimal value for constitutive and plastic traits will depend on the frequency and duration of flooding. These data will help us understanding the mechanisms affecting short- and long-term dynamics in flooding-prone ecosystems.

Keywords: Secondary roots; aerenchyma; genotypic variation; petiole length; plant performance; root porosity; selection; soil flooding; specific leaf area (SLA); Trifolium repens; white clover

Journal Article.  7012 words.  Illustrated.

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

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