Subtle topographical differences along a floodplain promote different plant strategies among Paspalum dilatatum subspecies and populations

Federico P.O. Mollard, Gustavo G. Striker, Edmundo L. Ploschuk, Pedro Insausti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


It was hypothesised that subtle topographical differences might cause the existence of ecotypes along a floodplain. The apomict grass Paspalum dilatatum subspecies dilatatum inhabits flood-prone lowlands as well as nearby uplands in the floodplains of Argentina, while the sexual P. dilatatum subspecies flavescens almost exclusively inhabits the uplands. The aim of the present study was to identify the different traits that allow these P. dilatatum populations to inhabit different habitats. Plants of P. dilatatum were reciprocally transplanted between uplands and lowlands. Morphophysiological traits related to flooding tolerance were measured during a flood. Subspecies dilatatum from the uplands and subspecies flavescens showed a high physiological performance in the uplands but a considerable decrease in stomatal conductance, net photosynthesis rates and tiller number in the flooded lowlands. In contrast, the subspecies dilatatum from the lowlands showed relatively lower and stable stomatal conductance, photosynthesis rates and leaf water potential at both sites. Subspecies dilatatum from the lowlands outperformed upland populations at the lowland site with respect to tillering. Leaves of subspecies dilatatum from the lowlands that had grown at the lowland habitat had a lower blade/sheath proportion than leaves of plants transplanted to the uplands. This behavior did not occur in both upland populations. Results suggest that dilatatum Lowland plants have the typical strategy of stress-tolerant genotypes and that the upland populations are adapted to habitats where competitive species are selected. In conclusion, habitats with subtle differences in topographic level can favour both ecotypic differentiations within an apomict subspecies but also the maintenance of morphophysiological similitudes between coexisting upland populations belonging to different subspecies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)189-196
Number of pages8
JournalAustral Ecology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2010
Externally publishedYes


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