Carbon allocation in aquatic plants with contrasting strategies: the role of habitat nutrient content

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Abstract

Questions:

The link between the carbon composition of aquatic plants and (1) plant strategies and (2) habitat nutrient availability has received little attention. We tested whether three aquatic species belonging to the three adaptive strategies defined by Grime (ruderal, stress tolerant and competitive) had contrasting carbon allocation patterns, and if these patterns varied in the same way between populations distributed along a gradient of habitat nutrient content.

Location:

Wetlands in the northern Rhône River Basin, France.

Methods:

The three species were sampled in 17 wetlands along a gradient of nutrient content in the northern Rhône River Basin. In each population sampled, we measured plant water content, C/N ratio, structural compounds (lignin and structural polysaccharides) and storage compounds (free sugars and starch) in two seasons (spring and autumn 2012).

Results:

The stress-tolerant species had higher content of structural compounds than the competitive and ruderal species. The content of storage compounds was higher in the competitive and stress-tolerant species compared to the ruderal species. Allocation of carbon compounds varied with habitat nutrient content in different ways for the three species, suggesting contrasting plasticities, possibly linked to plant strategy.

Conclusion:

Plant strategies and habitat nutrient content are likely key drivers in plant carbon allocation and should be taken into account when studying interactions between habitat and plant quality.

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