Journal Article

Ageing effects in an iteroparous plant species with a variable life span

Henk Van Dijk

in Annals of Botany

Published on behalf of The Annals of Botany Company

Volume 104, issue 1, pages 115-124
Published in print July 2009 | ISSN: 0305-7364
Published online April 2009 | e-ISSN: 1095-8290 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/aob/mcp100
Ageing effects in an iteroparous plant species with a variable life span

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

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Background and Aims

Ageing effects may be due to dysfunction leading to decreasing reproduction and survival with age. In plants, however, other (physiological) causes, associated with size for example, may also play a role. Iteroparous plants with genetically variable life spans can be helpful in unravelling these two aspects of changes associated with growing older.

Methods

In a long-term experiment, Beta vulgaris ssp. maritima (sea beet) plants from the same set of populations but with different ages were compared for flowering date over several years. Flowering date, root growth and seed production were measured in a synthetic population and in progenies derived from reciprocal crosses over three consecutive years and analysed with respect to the number of years yet to live. Heritabilities of these three characters and of life span were estimated.

Key Results

Flowering occurred on average 1·3 d later each year over a plant's whole lifetime. In the year before dying, plants flowered on average 3·3 d later and both root investment and seed production decreased significantly compared with plants that remained alive for at least 1 further year. The negative relationship (trade-off) between reproduction and root investment in early life became positive near the end of life, and the positive relationship between flowering date and root growth became negative.

Conclusions

Effects of ageing – in the sense of a decline in reproduction and root storage – combined with later flowering were particularly pronounced in the year before death. The gradual change in flowering phenology, observed over the whole lifetime, could have a physiological basis unrelated to dysfunction.

Keywords: Ageing; Beta vulgaris ssp. maritima (sea beet); flowering phenology; longevity; perennial; root investment; seed production; trade-offs; whole-plant senescence

Journal Article.  7541 words.  Illustrated.

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

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