Disaggregating seagrass meadows and studying its components separately (clones, ramets, shoots) can provide us insights on meadow dynamics and growth patterns. The clonal growth, dependent upon clonal rules may regulate and impose constraints to plant architecture and, therefore, determine how individual clones evolve into the environment. In order to investigate the relationship between clonal growth rules and clone architecture, the belowground network architecture of single-clones of the seagrass Zostera noltii was studied. Networks were traced in situ after washing out the overlying sediment, and network characteristics were measured using digital analysis: area covered by clone, total rhizome length, type of rhizomatic axes (main, secondary, tertiary, quaternary), number and length of the internodes, branching angles and branching frequencies. This approach revealed that Z. noltii is able to develop into large clones integrating up to 300 internodes, 676 cm of rhizome, 208 shoots and 4,300 cm2 of plant area. Internodal length depended on both, the distance to the apical shoot (time effect) and the axes type (apical dominance effect). However, average branching angle was independent of axis type (average 58.3 ± 0.75), but varied significantly depending on the distance from the apical shoot. This average branching angle allows Z. noltii maximize the rate of centrifugal expansion, maintaining a high density in colonized areas to produce close stands but also minimizing the investment in belowground biomass and ramets overlapping. The clonal architecture of Z. noltii seems to be regulated by the interaction of both, apical dominance strength and clonal integration distance. Moreover, clonal growth rules and growth pattern seem to constrain clonality through (clonal) plant architecture regulations (i.e. branching is restricted in secondary axes, similar average branching angles regardless the axes, the higher the distance to the apex the higher the number of internodes in secondary axes, shorter internodes in secondary and tertiary axes). Future research efforts should focus on how these complex relationships between apical dominance and clonal integration interact to elucidate the temporal (seasonal) and spatial scales of both processes and the outcome at the plant architectural level.
Original languageEnglish
JournalMarine Biology
Journal publication date2007

ID: 180704