J Plant Ecol ›› 2018, Vol. 11 ›› Issue (1): 92-102.DOI: 10.1093/jpe/rtw125

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Convergence in leaf phenology traits of two understory ferns in the northwestern Iberian Peninsula

Luis G. Quintanilla1,* and Beatriz Pías2   

  1. 1 Department of Biology and Geology, Physics and Inorganic Chemistry, School of Environmental Sciences and Technology, Rey Juan Carlos University, c/ Tulipán s/n, 28933 Móstoles, Móstoles, Spain; 2 Department of Plant Sciences, Faculty of Biology, Complutense of Madrid University, Madrid, Spain
  • Received:2016-04-18 Accepted:2016-11-08 Published:2018-01-18
  • Contact: Quintanilla, Luis

Abstract: Aims Plants control leaf phenology to maximize annual photosynthetic product. Although ferns play an important ecological role in many habitats, especially forests, their phenology traits have been poorly studied. Here, we investigate the leaf phenology of two ferns of the forest understorey and analyse the relationship between the timing of leaf emergence and spore dispersal and the effect of between-year climatic variation.
Methods We compared the leafing and sporing phenologies of two ferns with very large (>2 m), overwintering leaves: Culcita macrocarpa and Woodwardia radicans. We regularly monitored individuals of six populations in the northwestern Iberian Peninsula during a 3-year study. We studied eight phenology variables: leafing start date, leafing end date, leaf expansion time, number of new leaves per individual, between-individual synchrony, within-individual synchrony, percentage of fertile leaves and spore release date. We also determined leaf mass per area (LMA) and gathered data on air temperature and humidity.
Important findings Both C. macrocarpa and W. radicans produce few leaves (~2 leaves individual-1 year-1), which expand simultaneously for a very long period (from midwinter to early summer), are retained for more than 1 year (37 and 19 months, respectively) and have relatively high LMAs. Such traits, together with large leaf size, have also been found in seed plants from the forest understorey and represent adaptations to this light-limited environment. Spores of both study ferns are simultaneously released in late winter, with little between-year variation caused by differences in air humidity. This remarkable similarity between species suggests that the convergence in timing of leaf emergence favours the convergence in timing of spore dispersal.

Key words: Culcita macrocarpa, leaf phenology, spore dispersal, temperate forest, Woodwardia radicans

摘要:
Aims Plants control leaf phenology to maximize annual photosynthetic product. Although ferns play an important ecological role in many habitats, especially forests, their phenology traits have been poorly studied. Here, we investigate the leaf phenology of two ferns of the forest understorey and analyse the relationship between the timing of leaf emergence and spore dispersal and the effect of between-year climatic variation.
Methods We compared the leafing and sporing phenologies of two ferns with very large (>2 m), overwintering leaves: Culcita macrocarpa and Woodwardia radicans. We regularly monitored individuals of six populations in the northwestern Iberian Peninsula during a 3-year study. We studied eight phenology variables: leafing start date, leafing end date, leaf expansion time, number of new leaves per individual, between-individual synchrony, within-individual synchrony, percentage of fertile leaves and spore release date. We also determined leaf mass per area (LMA) and gathered data on air temperature and humidity.
Important findings Both C. macrocarpa and W. radicans produce few leaves (~2 leaves individual-1 year-1), which expand simultaneously for a very long period (from midwinter to early summer), are retained for more than 1 year (37 and 19 months, respectively) and have relatively high LMAs. Such traits, together with large leaf size, have also been found in seed plants from the forest understorey and represent adaptations to this light-limited environment. Spores of both study ferns are simultaneously released in late winter, with little between-year variation caused by differences in air humidity. This remarkable similarity between species suggests that the convergence in timing of leaf emergence favours the convergence in timing of spore dispersal.