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Intraspecific variation in the magnitude and pattern of flooding-induced shoot elongation in Rumex palustris

Chen, Xin, Huber, Heidrun, de Kroon, Hans, Peeters, Anton J.M., Poorter, Hendrik, Voesenek, Laurentius A.C.J., Visser, Eric J.W.
Annals of botany 2009 v.104 no.6 pp. 1057-1067
Rumex palustris, flooding tolerance, floods, genetic variation, genotype, habitats, harvesting, petioles, plant growth, progeny, rivers, roots, shoots, submergence, wetlands
BACKGROUND AND AIMS: Intraspecific variation in flooding tolerance is the basic pre-condition for adaptive flooding tolerance to evolve, and flooding-induced shoot elongation is an important trait that enables plants to survive shallow, prolonged flooding. Here an investigation was conducted to determine to what extent variation in flooding-induced leaf elongation exists among and within populations of the wetland species Rumex palustris, and whether the magnitude of elongation can be linked to habitat characteristics. METHODS: Offspring of eight genotypes collected in each of 12 populations from different sites (ranging from river mudflats with dynamic flooding regimes to areas with stagnant water) were submerged, and petioles, laminas and roots were harvested separately to measure traits related to elongation and plant growth. KEY RESULTS: We found strong elongation of petioles upon submergence, and both among- and within-population variation in this trait, not only in final length, but also in the timing of the elongation response. However, the variation in elongation responses could not be linked to habitat type. CONCLUSIONS: Spatio-temporal variation in the duration and depth of flooding in combination with a presumably weak selection against flooding-induced elongation may have contributed to the maintenance of large genetic variation in flooding-related traits among and within populations.