Growth forms and phenomorphology traits along an environmental gradient: tools for studying vegetation?



Abstract. Relationships between plant form, plant function, and environmental factors are analyzed in order to test the efficiency of growth form attributes and phenomorphology for studying vegetation on a regional scale. Examples of sclerophyllous evergreen coppices with Quercus ilex in the mediterranean climate of southern France are examined. The results for three growth form attributes (renewal bud location, leaf consistency, leaf size) and some environmental factors show that these criteria are efficient along a gradient of increasing stress. Concerning phenomorphology, some trends along the main environmental gradient become evident, but these results should be confirmed with descriptions of more species. It is suggested that man's ancient, very strong influence upon these ecosystems could explain some results showing that growth form distribution does not fit the pattern of variation in environmental factors.