Whole-plant organisational traits and ecological strategies in sunflowers

While trait-based plant ecology attempts to use small numbers of organ-level traits to predict ecological strategies, there is a major gap between organ-level ecophysiology and plant fitness in an environmental context. Bridging this gap are whole-plant organisational traits, including reproductive timing and biomass allocation patterns.

Variation in reproductive timing across Helianthus
Variation in reproductive timing across Helianthus. (A) Population mean daylength at first flower in Athens, Georgia common gardens (black square) plotted on population source sites across North America. (B) Species mean daylength at first bud and (C) first flower in Athens, Georgia common gardens.

Mason et al. explore the role of these traits in adaptation to diverse environments, using a phylogenetic comparative approach across wild sunflowers (Helianthus). Whole-plant organisational traits are shown to be just as important as organ-level traits in predicting ecological strategies in sunflowers, demonstrating that trait-based ecology can be strengthened through the explicit inclusion of whole-plant organisation.

Reference List

Mason, C. M., Goolsby, E. W., Davis, K. E., Bullock, D. V., & Donovan, L. A. (2017). Importance of whole-plant biomass allocation and reproductive timing to habitat differentiation across the North American sunflowers. Annals of Botany, 119(7), 1131–1142. https://doi.org/10.1093/aob/mcx002