Phragmites australis (common reed) is a dominant clonal species in the interface between land and water in many European wetlands. Along the land-water gradient, strong consistently different selective forces might operate to give rise to genetic substructuring. I have investigated the occurrence of genetic substructuring in European P. australis populations. The present paper examines whether seedlings, from seeds collected at both ends of the land-water gradient, showed differences in response to nutrient supply. Under controlled conditions, the relative growth rate (RGR) in the exponential growth phase, and growth characters of 10-week old seedlings were assessed. Among populations, no differences in response to nutrient supply were found. Although total dry weight was not related to the geographic origin of the populations, northem/western compared to southern/eastern European populations (1) formed more but shorter shoots, (2) formed thinner but longer rhizomes, and (3) invested more dry matter in leaves at the expense of stems. It was concluded that these trait differences are likely to originate from differences in the length of the growing season in the native habitat. Within populations, 'waterside' seedlings had a higher RGR under sub- optimal while for 'land-side' seedlings this was under optimal nutrient conditions. Ten-week-old 'water-side' seedlings had a higher total dry weight than 'land-side' ones, irrespective of nutrient loading. Differences in growth could not clearly be related to differences in single biomass allocation and morphological traits. A discriminant analysis on these traits, however, revealed that 'water-side' seedlings showed higher plasticity in discriminant scores than 'land-side' seedlings in response to nutrient supply. Discriminant scores also pointed towards a subtle trade-off between height versus expansion growth of seedlings, from the water to landward side. In the Romanian population, this could be related to morphological differences between ploidy levels. Overall, it was concluded that within populations, selection on growth form rather than on adaptations to the nutrient status of the habitat might have taken place. [KEYWORDS: wetlands; die-back; genetic diversity; environmental gradients; relative growth rate Reed decline; plants; dieback; typha; differentiation; performance; nitrogen; trin; size]
Original languageEnglish
Journal publication date1999

ID: 144426