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Responses to mineral nutrient availability and heterogeneity in physiologically integrated sedges from contrasting habitats.

  • Tina D'Hertefeldt
  • Ursula Falkengren-Grerup
  • I S Jónsdóttir
Publishing year: 2011
Language: English
Pages: 483-492
Publication/Series: Plant Biology
Volume: 13
Issue: 3
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell

Abstract english

Clonal plants from poor habitats benefit less from morphologically plastic responses to heterogeneity than plants from more productive sites. In addition, physiological integration has been suggested to either increase or decrease the foraging efficiency of clonal plants. We tested the capacity for biomass production and morphological response in two closely related, rhizomatous species from habitats that differ in resource availability, Carex arenaria (from poor sand dunes) and C. disticha (from nutrient-richer, moister habitats). We expected lower total biomass production and reduced morphological plasticity in C. arenaria, and that both species would produce more ramets in high nutrient patches, either in response to signals transported through physiological integration, or by locally determined responses to nutrient availability. To investigate mineral nutrient heterogeneity, plants were grown in boxes divided into two compartments with homogeneous or heterogeneous supply of high (H) or low (L) nutrient levels, resulting in four treatments, H-H, H-L, L-H and L-L. Both C. arenaria and C. disticha produced similar biomass in high nutrient treatments. C. disticha responded to high nutrients by increased biomass production and branching of the young parts and by altering root:shoot ratio and rhizome lengths, while C. arenaria showed localised responses to high nutrients in terms of local biomass and branch production in high nutrient patches. The results demonstrated that although it has a conservative morphology, C. arenaria responded to nutrient heterogeneity through morphological plasticity. An analysis of costs and benefits of integration on biomass production showed that young ramets of both species benefited significantly from physiological integration, but no corresponding costs were found. This suggests that plants from resource-poor but dynamic habitats like sand dunes respond morphologically to high nutrient patches. The two species responded to nutrient heterogeneity in different traits, and this is discussed in terms of local and distant signalling of plant status.


  • Ecology
  • Carex arenaria
  • Carex disticha
  • physiological integration
  • ramet
  • resource heterogeneity
  • rhizome.


  • BECC
  • Soil Ecology
  • ISSN: 1438-8677
Tina D'Hertefeldt
E-mail: tina [dot] dhertefeldt [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se



+46 46 222 37 75

+46 73 659 22 86



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Soil Ecology Group


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  • SoilService

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