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Keywords:

  • Climate warming;
  • clonal integration;
  • growth advantage;
  • physical connection

Abstract

Physical connection between ramets usually allows clonal plants to perform better but can have the opposite effects in some cases. Clonal integration and the effects of climate warming have been extensively studied, but to date little is known about how climate warming affects the benefits of clonal integration. We conducted a field experiment in which Alternanthera philoxeroides segments with connected and severed stolons were subject to four climate regimes (ambient, day warming, night warming and daily warming), and measured final biomass, number of ramets and total length of stolons. Across the three warming treatments, temperature rise suppressed growth of clonal fragments with connected stolons but increased growth of fragments with severed stolons; temperature rise affected the biomass of distal ramets but not proximal ramets, and had similar effects on the numbers of proximal and distal ramets. When the three warming treatments were considered separately, they had contrasting consequences for the benefits of clonal integration. Specifically, when fragments were exposed to day and night warming, physical connection evened out the advantages of clonal integration that occur under ambient conditions; when fragments were exposed to daily warming, physical connection led to smaller clonal plants. These findings suggest that physical connection between ramets may be disadvantageous to overall performance of A. philoxeroides fragments under climate warming, and also indicate that the net consequences of daily warming outweigh those of day or night warming.