Phenotypic plasticity promotes persistence following severe events: Physiological and morphological responses of seagrass to flooding

Maxwell, Paul S., Pitt, Kylie A., Burfeind, Dana D., Olds, Andrew D., Babcock, Russell C. and Connolly, Rod M. (2014) Phenotypic plasticity promotes persistence following severe events: Physiological and morphological responses of seagrass to flooding. Journal of Ecology, 102 1: 54-64. doi:10.1111/1365-2745.12167


Author Maxwell, Paul S.
Pitt, Kylie A.
Burfeind, Dana D.
Olds, Andrew D.
Babcock, Russell C.
Connolly, Rod M.
Title Phenotypic plasticity promotes persistence following severe events: Physiological and morphological responses of seagrass to flooding
Journal name Journal of Ecology   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0022-0477
1365-2745
Publication date 2014-01-01
Year available 2013
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1111/1365-2745.12167
Open Access Status Not Open Access
Volume 102
Issue 1
Start page 54
End page 64
Total pages 11
Place of publication Oxford, United Kingdom
Publisher Wiley-Blackwell
Language eng
Abstract Severe events such as floods or cyclones can have large ecological effects on the structure and functioning of ecosystems. The capacity of an ecosystem to adapt to, or absorb, the effects of a severe event depends on the severity and longevity of the event and the tolerance of the species present. Seagrasses exhibit phenotypic plasticity at the plant to meadow scale through a variety of physiological and morphological acclimations to light stress to enhance photosynthetic capacity. These acclimations provide early warning of the possible risk of larger scale seagrass loss and can therefore be used in predicting how ecosystems might respond to severe events. The physiological and morphological responses of 12 seagrass (Zostera muelleri) meadows to a severe flood were examined to test two main hypotheses: (i) that the physiological and morphological characteristics of seagrass would differ between meadows along the established chronic water quality gradient, in a pattern consistent with prior acclimations which have been shown to enhance photosynthetic capacity and (ii) that physiological and morphological responses to the flood would differ between meadows in a manner consistent with their position along the water quality gradient. Meadows had different physiological and morphological characteristics across the water quality gradient, with meadows subject to chronically poorer water quality exhibiting characteristics consistent with those that maximize photosynthetic capacity. Despite a large discrepancy in impact among meadows, all meadows sampled responded consistently to the flood, exhibiting only physiological changes with no significant reduction in biomass. This suggests that photoacclimation to chronically poor conditions can enable seagrasses to withstand the effects of severe events, such as floods. Synthesis. Phenotypic plasticity in habitat-forming species can result in a large variation in their responses to severe events, such as floods or cyclones. Acclimation to prior poor environmental conditions can promote persistence in habitat-forming species, such as seagrasses, following severe events. The measurement of phenotypic characteristics along an impact gradient can therefore provide an indication of the response of habitat-forming species to severe events. Phenotypic plasticity in habitat-forming species can result in a large variation in their responses to severe events, like floods or cyclones. Acclimation to prior poor environmental conditions can promote persistence in habitat forming species, like seagrasses, following severe events. The measurement of phenotypic characteristics along an impact gradient can therefore provide an indication of the response of habitat forming species to severe events.
Keyword Aquatic plant ecology
Habitat-forming species
Moreton Bay
Photoacclimation
Resilience
Water quality gradient
Zostera muelleri
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ
Additional Notes Article first published online: 25 October 2013.

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Official 2014 Collection
School of Biological Sciences Publications
 
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