Wind and mechanical stimuli differentially affect leaf traits in Plantago major

Authors

  • Niels P. R. Anten,

    1. Ecology and Biodiversity, Institute of Environmental Biology, Utrecht University, PO Box 800.84, 3508TB, Utrecht, the Netherlands
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  • Rafael Alcalá-Herrera,

    1. Ecology and Biodiversity, Institute of Environmental Biology, Utrecht University, PO Box 800.84, 3508TB, Utrecht, the Netherlands
    2. Area de Ecologia, Universidad de Córdoba, Ctra. Madrid, Km. 396, 14071 Córdoba, Spain
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  • Feike Schieving,

    1. Ecology and Biodiversity, Institute of Environmental Biology, Utrecht University, PO Box 800.84, 3508TB, Utrecht, the Netherlands
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  • Yusuke Onoda

    1. Ecology and Biodiversity, Institute of Environmental Biology, Utrecht University, PO Box 800.84, 3508TB, Utrecht, the Netherlands
    2. Department of Biology, Faculty of Sciences, Kyushu University, Fukuoka 812-8581, Japan
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Author for correspondence:
Niels PR Anten
Tel: +31 30 2536846
Email: n.p.r.anten@uu.nl

Summary

  • Analysing plant phenotypic plasticity in response to wind is complicated as this factor entails not only mechanical stress but also affects leaf gas and heat exchange.
  • We exposed Plantago major plants to brushing (mechanical stress, MS) and wind (MS and air flow) and determined the effects on physiological, morphological and mechanical characteristics of leaf petioles and laminas as well as on growth and biomass allocation at the whole-plant level.
  • Both MS and wind similarly reduced growth but their effects on morphological and mechanical plant traits were different. MS induced the formation of leaves with more slender petioles, and more elliptic and thinner laminas, while wind tended to evoke the opposite response. These morphological and mechanical changes increased lamina and petiole flexibility in MS plants, thus reducing mechanical stress by reconfiguration of plant structure. Responses to wind, on the other hand, seemed to be more associated with reducing transpiration.
  • These results show that responses to mechanical stress and wind can be different and even in the opposite direction. Plant responses to wind in the field can therefore be variable depending on overall environmental conditions and plant characteristics.

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