In resource-poor environments, adjustment in plant biomass allocation implies a complex interplay between environmental signals and plant development rather than a delay in plant development alone. To understand how environmental factors influence biomass allocation or the developing phenotype, it is necessary to distinguish the biomass allocations resulting from environmental gradients or ontogenetic drift. Here, we compared the development trajectories of cotton plants (Gossypium herbaceum L.), which were grown in two contrasting soil textures during a 60-d period. Those results distinguished the biomass allocation pattern resulting from ontogenetic drift and the response to soil texture. The soil texture significantly changed the biomass allocation to leaves and roots, but not to stems. Soil texture also significantly changed the development trajectories of leaf and root traits, but did not change the scaling relationship between basal stem diameter and plant height. Results of nested ANOVAs of consecutive plant-size categories in both soil textures showed that soil gradients explained an average of 63.64-70.49% of the variation of biomass allocation to leaves and roots. Ontogenetic drift explained 77.47% of the variation in biomass allocation to stems. The results suggested that the environmental factors governed the biomass allocation to roots and leaves, and ontogenetic drift governed the biomass allocation to stems. The results demonstrated that biomass allocation to metabolically active organs (e.g., roots and leaves) was mainly governed by environmental factors, and that biomass allocation to metabolically non-active organs (e.g., stems) was mainly governed by ontogenetic drift. We concluded that differentiating the causes of development trajectories of plant traits was important to the understanding of plant response to environmental gradients. © 2012 Xie et al.
Xie, J., Tang, L., Wang, Z., Xu, G., & Li, Y. (2012). Distinguishing the biomass allocation variance resulting from ontogenetic drift or acclimation to soil texture. PLoS ONE, 7(7). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0041502