Journal of Arid Land


Eremosparton songoricum (Litv.) Vass is a dwarf clonal shrubby legume developed on the windward slopes of mobile or semi-fixed sand dunes of Central Asia. It is assumed that E. songoricum must possess a high degree of phenotypic plasticity for such a heterogeneous habitat. The variations of E. songoricum plants growing in two typical microhabitats (the upper slope and the lower slope of semi-mobile dune) were investigated. The morphological characteristics and the biomass allocation patterns were measured and compared at the clonal fragment level. Compared with the clonal fragment on the lower slope of dune, the clonal fragment on the upper slope of the dune (a) declined in total biomass and ramet height, (b) increased the length of rhizomes and the number of roots, (c) increased the degree of asymmetry, and (d) heightened allocation to the belowground biomass. Our results confirmed the hypothesis of high phenotypic adjustment capacity of E. songoricum to habitat moisture availability. Phenotypic plasticity of E. songoricum contributed to reduce the damage risk, led to an environmentally induced specialization in function of resources exploitation, resulted in its persistence in heterogeneous environments and was adaptive in sand dune environment.


Eremosparton songoricum; moisture availability; phenotypic plasticity; sand dune

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