Sexual and clonal reproduction in alpine plant life: persistence, dispersal and the landscape level (2000-2004)


Species from alpine plant communities are usually long-lived and rely strongly on reproduction by vegetative growth. For an understanding of the maintenance of sexual reproduction in clonal plants and their generally high level of genetic variability, a metapopulation perspective is necessary. In an experimentally based field study with alpine species, we integrated local population dynamics, seed dispersal and gene flow at the landscape level.
Our research focused on long-lived clonal species from alpine plant communities. The landscape level is included by considering populations that occur on gradients from early to late successional plant communities and populations from different elevations. The conceptual framework is summarized in the figure beneath.
While most studies with clonal plants focus on vegetative growth as a determinant factor for local population processes, this project intended to integrate local population dynamics, seed dispersal and gene flow at the landscape level.
By illuminating the relative importance of clonal vs. sexual reproduction for population growth in different habitats and by measuring among-population trade-offs it is possible to test predictions about the advantage of either mode or reproduction.
Relating gene flow to the dispersal of seeds will allow to estimate the spatial dynamics of plant populations in a changing environment.
In sum, the approach of this study was to contribute to the knowledge on how the meta-population structure of plants affects genetic diversity and adaptive evolution.


Andrea R. Pluess, Tina Weppler

Selected publications

Plüss AR, Stöcklin J (2004) Population genetic diversity of the clonal plant Geum reptans (Rosaceae) in the Swiss Alps. American Journal of Botany 91: 2013-2021.

Weppler T, Stoll P, Stöcklin J (2006) The relative importance of sexual and clonal reproduction for population growth in the long-lived alpine plant Geum reptans. J Ecology 94: 869-879.