Evolutionary Ecology

, Volume 28, Issue 6, pp 1155–1167 | Cite as

Responses of macrophytes to dewatering: effects of phylogeny and phenotypic plasticity on species performance

  • Mélissa De Wilde
  • Nadia Sebei
  • Sara Puijalon
  • Gudrun Bornette
Original Paper


Temporary dewatering constitutes a drastic change in conditions for aquatic vegetation. Species’ sustained performance under these conditions relies partly on their ability to produce a terrestrial phenotype. Such adaptations may include the development of self-supporting aboveground organs with higher dry matter content enabling plants to withstand gravity and smaller leaves with thicker cuticle to reduce evapotranspiration, leading to lower specific leaf area, higher leaf-construction costs and consequently higher leaf life span. The ability of aquatic plant species to produce a terrestrial-adapted phenotype may differ according to growth form and evolutionary history. The objectives of this study were to (1) measure the effects of dewatering on aquatic plant performance, (2) determine how growth form and phylogenetic position affect performance, and (3) relate plant performance to plasticity. To meet these objectives, we experimentally studied aquatic plant responses to dewatering by measuring survival, growth, and a set of traits describing the morphology and leaf-resource economy of eight aquatic plant species with contrasting phylogeny and growth forms. The ability of aquatic plants to withstand dewatering differed according to phylogeny but not to growth form. The eudicots presented high survival and similar growth rates under terrestrial compared to aquatic conditions, while monocots generally did not survive dewatering. These species produced phenotypic adjustments, such as denser aboveground organs and leaf plasticity, which can explain the maintenance of similar growth rates under terrestrial conditions. The relatively strong plasticity and performance of eudicots in terrestrial habitats suggests that their optimal niche is the interface between aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.


Aquatic plants Dewatering Plasticity Growth form Phylogeny Plant traits 



M.R. Viricel is gratefully acknowledged for technical assistance. This research was performed under the aegis of the LTER “Zone Atelier Bassin du Rhône” and was funded by the Wetchange Program (ANR-09-CEP-006-01) of the French National Research Agency (Agence Nationale de la Recherche-ANR).


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mélissa De Wilde
    • 1
  • Nadia Sebei
    • 1
  • Sara Puijalon
    • 1
  • Gudrun Bornette
    • 1
  1. 1.UMR CNRS 5023 «Laboratoire d’Ecologie des Hydrosystèmes Naturels et Anthropisés», Université Lyon 1, ENTPEUniversité de LyonVilleurbanne CedexFrance

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