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Differences between resprouters and non-resprouters

October 1st, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

Resprouting is a very important process in plants living in disturbance-prone ecosystems, and the December issue of the journal Plant Ecology is going to be dedicated to this topic (Ecology of plant resprouting in fire-prone ecosystems). During the recent years, and starting from the PERSIST project, we have been comparing functional traits between resprouters and non-resprouters in Mediterranean fire-prone ecosystems, and the last comparison (physiological traits [5]), is included in this special issue. Resprouters and non-resprouters are two plant syndromes in Mediterranean ecosystems that also differ in their evolutionary history [1]. Resprouters tend to exhibit a deeper root-system than non-resprouters that inverse less resources on roots. So one could think that resprouters are better adapted to drought. However, both resprouters and non resprouters coexist, and non-resprouters counteract their lower root allocation by different traits that confer higher drought resistance [2]. Non-resprouters have higher drought resistance at leave level because they have higher water use efficiency (WUE) and higher leaf mass per area (LMA; i.e., higher sclerophylly, lower SLA) [3]. The seedling root structure of non-resprouters also allows them to more efficiently explore the upper soil layer [4]. A recent paper also shows that, when water is non-limiting, non-resprouters showed a better performance of leaf gas exchange traits (higher assimilation, stomatal conductance and transpiration) than resprouters [5]; that is non-resprouters have higher efficiency in resource capture, and thus a better capacity to take advantage of water when it is freely available. In addition, resprouters and non-resprouters also differ in their post-fire germination, as non-resprouters tend to have a greater capacity to both (i) persist after fire by means of recruiting (greater heat-tolerance) and (ii) increase their population after fire (greater heat-stimulated germination), than resprouters [4]. All these results suggest that resprouters and non-resprouters are two contrasted syndromes or functional types in the Mediterranean Basin [6].

Figure: Arbutus unedo resprouting after a fire.

References:

[1] Pausas J.G. & Verdú M. 2005. Plant persistence traits in fire-prone ecosystems of the Mediterranean Basin: A phylogenetic approach. Oikos 109: 196-202. [pdf |doi]

[2] Pausas J.G. 2010. Fire, drought, resprouting: leaf and root traits. URL: jgpausas.blogs.uv.es, 22/Oct/2010.

[3] Paula S. & Pausas J.G. 2006. Leaf traits and resprouting ability in the Mediterranean basin. Functional Ecology 20: 941-947. [pdf | [doi]

[4] Paula S. & Pausas J.G. 2011. Root traits explain different foraging strategies between resprouting life histories. Oecologia 165:321-331. [doipdfblog]

[5] Hernández E.I., Pausas J.G. & Vilagrosa A. 2011. Leaf physiological traits in relation to resprouter ability in the Mediterranean Basin. Plant Ecology 212:1959-1966 [doi| pdf]

[4] Paula S. & Pausas J.G. 2008. Burning seeds: Germinative response to heat treatments in relation to resprouting ability. Journal of Ecology 96 (3): 543 – 552. [pdf | doi]

[6] Pausas, J.G., Bradstock, R.A., Keith, D.A., Keeley, J.E. & GCTE Fire Network. 2004. Plant functional traits in relation to fire in crown-fire ecosystems. Ecology 85: 1085-1100. [pdfjstor] [Ecological Archives E085-029]

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