Clonality as a key but overlooked driver of biotic interactions in plants

Abstract : Most plants are clonal i.e. able to laterally propagate by producing new genetically identical ramets connected by specialized clonal organs. Clonality determines ramet aggregation patterns, the presence of physical connections between ramets, the sharing of resources, hormones, and signaling molecules within the clonal fragment. We thus argue that clonal traits drive not only the individual plant fitness, but also the whole plant community assembly and ecosystem functioning through their involvement in plant biotic interactions with other micro- and macro-organisms. In an extensive literature review, we investigated how clonality influences a wide range of processes in space and over time, and subsequently affects biotic interactions. These processes occur both at the plant and the population levels, including spatial patterns of below- and aboveground organs, micro-environmental heterogeneity and genetic diversity. We highlight the responses of clonal plant traits to biotic interactions, and reciprocally, the effects of clonality on plant-plant, plant-animal (with herbivores, pollinators), and plant-microorganism interactions (with pathogens, mutualists). Based on this knowledge, we suggest future prospects are promising, in particular if clonal traits are integrated in studies of multitrophic level interactions, thereby enabling a new understanding of plant community assembly rules and the ability to predict changes in biodiversity due to modifications in biotic interactions.
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Anne-Kristel Bittebière, Marie-Lise Benot, Cendrine Mony. Clonality as a key but overlooked driver of biotic interactions in plants. Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics, Elsevier, 2020, 43, pp.125510. ⟨10.1016/j.ppees.2020.125510⟩. ⟨hal-02440373⟩

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