Edge effects on growth and biomass partitioning of an Amazonian understory herb (Heliconia acuminata; Heliconiaceae)


Premise: After deforestation, environmental changes in the remaining forest fragments are often most intense near the forest edge, but few studies have evaluated plant growth or plasticity of plant growth in response to edge effects. Methods: In a 2-year common garden experiment, we compared biomass allocation and growth of Heliconia acuminata with identical genotypes grown in 50 x 35 m common gardens on a 25-year-old edge and in a forest interior site. Key results: Genetically identical plants transplanted to the forest edge and understory exhibited different patterns of growth and biomass allocation. However, individuals with identical genotypes in the same garden often had very different responses. Plants on forest edges also had higher growth rates and increased biomass at the end of the experiment, almost certainly due to the increased light on the forest edge. Conclusions: With over 70 000 km of forest edge created annually in the Brazilian Amazon, phenotypic plasticity may play an important role in mediating plant responses to these novel environmental conditions.

American Journal of Botany, (98), 10, pp. 1727–1734