TitleWhat youngsters say about adults: seedling roots reflect clonal traits of adult plants
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2007
AuthorsSmilauerova, M, Smilauer, P
JournalJournal of Ecology

1 Grime's theory on plant strategies predicts that the set of traits present in established plants is not correlated with that found in the regenerative stage of the life cycle. We tested this prediction and further investigated whether clonal growth traits, which are found in adult plants but also affect regeneration, are correlated with seedling traits. 2 We characterized seedling root systems by their total length, number of root tips and several architectural parameters (length of exterior and interior root links and two topological indices). These below-ground traits were supplemented by the ratio of leaf area to root length, representing relative investment into photosynthesizing surface. We compared seedling traits with clonal growth traits, adult plant heights, and species positions on gradients of nitrogen and water availability. 3 Plant species with limited horizontal spread by clonal growth exhibited a larger relative investment in photosynthetic area and also developed larger root systems as seedlings. 4 Seedlings of species with taller shoots and those which occur naturally at nutrient-rich sites developed both larger roots and more dichotomously branched root systems (with higher total length and more branches). 5 Taking phylogenetic inertia into account showed that this explained large parts of the variation in seedling traits. Relationships between clonal spread and seedling traits were strengthened by phylogenetic correction. 6 Our study shows that some of the traits of clonal growth affect both the established and the regenerative stages of the life cycle, suggesting that an evolutionary trade-off exists between the ability to spread clonally and performance at the seedling stage. Species not able to escape from less favourable conditions by extensive clonal spread seem to be more able to exploit the location in which they germinate.