|Title||Genotypic and phenotypic diversity does not affect productivity and drought response in competitive stands of trifolium repens|
|Author(s)||Huber, Heidrun; During, Heinjo J.; Bruin, Fabienne Bruine de; Vermeulen, Peter; Anten, Niels P.R.|
|Source||Frontiers in Plant Science 7 (2016). - ISSN 1664-462X|
Centre for Crop Systems Analysis
Crop and Weed Ecology
|Publication type||Refereed Article in a scientific journal|
|Keyword(s)||Clonal growth - Competition - Drought - Genetic and phenotypic diversity - Genotypic selection - Size hierarchies - Trifolium repens|
Clonal plants can form dense canopies in which plants of different genetic origin are competing for the uptake of essential resources. The competitive relationships among these clones are likely to be affected by extreme environmental conditions, such as prolonged drought spells, which are predicted to occur more frequently due to global climate change. This, in turn, may alter characteristics of the ecological system and its associated functioning. We hypothesized that the relative success of individual clones will depend on the size of the ramets as ramets with larger leaves and longer petioles (large ramets) were predicted to have a competitive advantage in terms of increased light interception over smaller-sized ramets. Under drier conditions the relative performances of genotypes were expected to change leading to a change in genotype ranking. We also hypothesized that increased genotypic and phenotypic diversity will increase stand performance and resistance to drought. These hypotheses and the mechanisms responsible for shifts in competitive relationships were investigated by subjecting genotypes of the important pasture legume Trifolium repens to competition with either genetically identical clones, genetically different but similarly sized clones, or genetically as well as morphologically different clones under well-watered and dry conditions. Competitive relationships were affected by ramet size with large genotypes outperforming small genotypes in diverse stands in terms of biomass production. However, large genotypes also produced relatively fewer ramets than small genotypes and could not benefit in terms of clonal reproduction from competing with smaller genotypes, indicating that evolutionary shifts in genotype composition will depend on whether ramet size or ramet number is under selection. In contrast to our hypotheses, diversity did not increase stand performance under different selection regimes and genotype ranking was hardly affected by soil moisture, indicating that increasing fluctuations in water availability result in few short-term effects on genotypic diversity in this stoloniferous grassland species. Communities dominated by stoloniferous herbs such as T. repens may be relatively resilient to environmental change and to low levels of genetic diversity.