Nomenclature: Harden (1996); Linder (1997).
Are traits measured on pot grown plants representative of those in natural communities?
Article first published online: 29 JAN 2009
2008 IAVS - the International Association of Vegetation Science
Journal of Vegetation Science
Volume 19, Issue 1, pages 119–126, February 2008
How to Cite
Mokany, K. and Ash, J. (2008), Are traits measured on pot grown plants representative of those in natural communities?. Journal of Vegetation Science, 19: 119–126. doi: 10.3170/2007-8-18340
- Issue published online: 29 JAN 2009
- Article first published online: 29 JAN 2009
- Received 18 October 2006; Accepted 31 May 2007
- Native grassland;
- Plasticity Root trait;
- Trait strategy
Question: The quantification of functional traits in natural communities can be difficult (e.g. root traits, RGR). Can functional traits measured on pot grown plants be reliably applied to natural communities? Alternatively, can below-ground plant traits be predicted from above-ground traits?
Location: Southeastern Australia.
Methods: We compared 17 shoot, root and whole-plant morphological traits measured on 14 plant species in a native grassland community to those measured under two different pot conditions: unfertilised and fertilised.
Results: The majority of trait values for pot grown plants differed to plants in the field, however, species ranking remained consistent for most leaf traits between the field and the two pot growing conditions. In contrast, species ranking was not consistent for most whole plant traits when comparing field plants to fertilised pot grown plants, providing a caution against the tendency to grow plants in controlled conditions at ‘optimal’ (high) resource levels. Moderate to strong correlations were found between below-ground and above-ground plant traits, including between root dry matter content and leaf dry matter content, and between specific root area and specific leaf area.
Conclusions: The utility of pot grown plants to quantify traits for field plants is highly dependent on the selection of the growing conditions in the controlled environment. The consistency we observed between above-ground and below-ground trait strategies suggests that below-ground traits may be predictable based on above-ground traits, reducing the need to quantify root traits on cultured plants.