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Journal Articles Oikos Year : 2015

Using intra-individual variation in shrub architecture to explain population cover


Plant architecture is related to the performance of long-lived plants; its role in promoting species coexistence and in successional patterns is now widely recognized. However, because plant architecture involves branching processes, it is highly variable at the intra-specific level. In this paper, we address two questions: what is the best way to describe plant architecture to obtain meaningful information for explaining population cover: at the whole-plant level, or at the level of its unitary constituent parts? Further, are there architectural designs related to populations’ success? We evaluated the relative impact of ontogeny and whole-plant traits on the cover achieved by the populations of five shrub species developing on 25 abandoned farmlands in southwestern Québec (Canada). We compared four ways of analyzing plant architecture: 1–2) using morphological traits described at the scale of a module (an elementary architectural unit made up of all the different types of shoots), with or without taking into account the ontogeny of the whole organism, 3) using the rate of changes during ontogeny as traits, and 4) using whole-plant traits describing branching processes at a scale larger than modules. We then used variation partitioning to discriminate the actual effects of these traits on percent cover of the species from hidden effects due to plant ontogenesis and population spatial structure. Our results suggest that the predominant variables that effectively describe population cover vary from one species to another. At the same time, whole-plant architectural traits and the rate of change of morphological traits during ontogeny both have an important effect on population cover. These findings suggest that acknowledging the developmental pattern of woody species can clarify the impact of intra-specific trait variation on population cover

Dates and versions

hal-01164884 , version 1 (18-06-2015)



Tristan Charles-Dominique, Claude Edelin, André Bouchard, Pierre Legendre, Jacques Brisson. Using intra-individual variation in shrub architecture to explain population cover. Oikos, 2015, 124 (6), pp.707-716. ⟨10.1111/oik.01654⟩. ⟨hal-01164884⟩
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