The extended phenotype of Scots pine Pinus sylvestris structures the understorey assemblage


  • Robin J. Pakeman,

  • Joan K. Beaton,

  • Vera Thoss,

  • Jack J. Lennon,

  • Colin D. Campbell,

  • Duncan White,

  • Glenn R. Iason

R. J. Pakeman (, J. K. Beaton, V. Thoss, J. J. Lennon, C. D. Campbell, D. White and G. R. Iason, Macaulay Inst., Craigiebuckler, Aberdeen, AB15 8QH, UK.


Heritable variation in plant secondary compounds in dominant species has been hypothesised to effect ecosystem function and the structure of associated assemblages of plants, microbes and animals. The functioning of this extended phenotype in relation to the understorey vegetation composition was tested within a boreal forest system dominated by Pinus sylvestris which contains a range of monoterpenes, the composition of which is largely under genetic control. A variance partitioning approach was adopted to identify the relative importance of tree chemistry, environment, spatial location and tree architecture in controlling the distribution of species in the ground flora under individual trees. The monoterpene composition of the pine needles appeared to contribute significantly to controlling understorey vegetation composition, but was less important than environmental factors, though similar to spatial factors. Thus there appears to be a link between variation in the chemical composition of the single, dominant tree species within this system and the pattern of occurrence and abundance in other species at the same trophic level.