Clonality-Climate Relationships along Latitudinal Gradient across China: Adaptation of Clonality to Environments

Duo Ye1,4, Yukun Hu1,4, Minghua Song3, Xu Pan1,4, Xiufang Xie1,4, Guofang Liu1*, Xuehua Ye1,Ming Dong1,2*

1 State Key Laboratory of Vegetation and Environmental Change, Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China, 2 Key Laboratory of Hangzhou City for Ecosystem Protection and Restoration, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, Hangzhou Normal University, Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China, 3 Key Laboratory of Ecosystem Network Observation and Modeling, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China, 4 University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China * For correspondence. * E-mail: liugf@ibcas.ac.cn (GL); dongmingchina@126.com (MD)

Abstract

Plant clonality, the ability of a plant species to reproduce itself vegetatively through ramets (shoot-root units), occurs in many plant species and is considered to be more frequent in cold or wet environments. However, a deeper understanding on the clonality-climate relationships along large geographic gradients is still scarce. In this study we revealed the clonalityclimate relationships along latitudinal gradient of entire China spanning from tropics to temperate zones using clonality data for 4015 vascular plant species in 545 terrestrial communities. Structural equation modeling (SEM) showed that, in general, the preponderance of clonality increased along the latitudinal gradient towards cold, dry or very wet environments. However, the distribution of clonality in China was significantly but only weakly correlated with latitude and four climatic factors (mean annual temperature, temperature seasonality, mean annual precipitation, precipitation seasonality). Clonality of woody and herbaceous species had opposite responses to climatic variables. More precisely, woody clonality showed higher frequency in wet or climatically stable environments, while herbaceous clonality preferred cold, dry or climatically instable environments. Unexplained variation in clonality may be owed to the influences of other environmental conditions and to different clonal strategies and underlying traits adopted by different growth forms and phylogenetic lineages. Therefore, in-depth research in terms of more detailed clonal growth form, phylogeny and additional environmental variables are encouraged to further understand plant clonality response to climatic and/or edaphic conditions.