Evolutionary Ecology

, Volume 22, Issue 3, pp 313–324 | Cite as

Performance of a clonal species in patchy environments: effects of environmental context on yield at local and whole-plant scales

  • Michael J. Hutchings
  • Dushyantha K. Wijesinghe
Original Paper


Yield of the clonal plant Glechoma hederacea was compared at different spatial scales, in heterogeneous and homogeneous environments providing the same amount of nutrients. For the heterogeneous treatments, environments were created with different patch sizes and different degrees of contrast in nutrient concentration between patches of different quality. Total clone yield differed by almost 2.5-fold across treatments, being highest in environments with large patches and high contrast, lowest in environments with small patches and high contrast, and intermediate under homogeneous conditions. Compared with plants in homogeneous conditions, there were significant increases or decreases in yield at all scales of measurement in many of the heterogeneous treatments. These effects on yield reflected a combination of local responses to growing conditions and modification of these responses due to physiological integration with other parts of the plant growing in contrasting conditions, supporting the proposal of de Kroon et al. (2005 New Phytol 166:73–82). The results show that plant yield at all scales is strongly dependent on environmental context, and that maximum yield can only be realized under a limited range of heterogeneous conditions.


Clonal plants Division of labour Environmental heterogeneity Patch size Patch contrast Physiological integration 



We gratefully acknowledge constructive comments and criticisms of Peter Alpert, Joel Brown, Heidi Huber, Libby John, Hans de Kroon, Josef Stuefer and Jun Suzuki on an earlier version of this manuscript. This research was supported by grant GR3/8843(ML4) awarded to M.J.H. from the Natural Environment Research Council, UK.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael J. Hutchings
    • 1
  • Dushyantha K. Wijesinghe
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Life SciencesUniversity of SussexBrightonUK

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