Phylogenetic meta-analysis of the functional traits of clonal plants foraging in changing environments

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Abstract

Foraging behavior, one of the adaptive strategies of clonal plants, has stimulated a tremendous amount of research. However, it is a matter of debate whether there is any general pattern in the foraging traits (functional traits related to foraging behavior) of clonal plants in response to diverse environments. We collected data from 97 published papers concerning the relationships between foraging traits (e.g., spacer length, specific spacer length, branch intensity and branch angle) of clonal plants and essential resources (e.g., light, nutrients and water) for plant growth and reproduction. We incorporated the phylogenetic information of 85 plant species to examine the universality of foraging hypotheses using phylogenetic meta-analysis. The trends toward forming longer spacers and fewer branches in shaded environments were detected in clonal plants, but no evidence for a relation between foraging traits and nutrient availability was detected, except that there was a positive correlation between branch intensity and nutrient availability in stoloniferous plants. The response of the foraging traits of clonal plants to water availability was also not obvious. Additionally, our results indicated that the foraging traits of stoloniferous plants were more sensitive to resource availability than those of rhizomatous plants. In consideration of plant phylogeny, these results implied that the foraging traits of clonal plants (notably stoloniferous plants) only responded to light intensity in a general pattern but did not respond to nutrient or water availability. In conclusion, our findings on the effects of the environment on the foraging traits of clonal plants avoided the confounding effects of phylogeny because we incorporated phylogeny into the meta-analysis.

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Xie, X. F., Song, Y. B., Zhang, Y. L., Pan, X., & Dong, M. (2014). Phylogenetic meta-analysis of the functional traits of clonal plants foraging in changing environments. PLoS ONE, 9(9). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0107114

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