Spend water or save water? Grow or reproduce?
Spend water or save water? Grow or reproduce? For the tiny desert plants that bloom during the winter, the choices are life-or-death gambles, and ecologists at the University of Arizona have identified the wagers that will win.
Xing-yue Monica Ge, a graduate student in the UA Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, studied more than 50 species and analyzed data spanning more than 30 years to find that only plants that closely follow a tradeoff of water use and reproduction will thrive in the desert.
Previous research done at the UA’s Desert Laboratory on Tumamoc Hill identified the tradeoff by studying nine common species of winter annuals on Tumamoc Hill. Ge’s research investigated this tradeoff for the entire community of winter annual plants around the Desert Laboratory.
The study, published in Ecology Letters, found that in the face of varying temperatures and rainfall, the best balance falls along the tradeoff between growth and water-use efficiency. Plants either conserve their water and grow slowly and steadily throughout the winter, or they spend water by closely tracking rainfall and growing rapidly in response to precipitation.
Read more at University of Arizona
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