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Oecologia. 1999 Jan;118(1):1-8. doi: 10.1007/s004420050696.

Survival tactics of Ranunculus species in river floodplains.

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Department of Ecology, University of Nijmegen, Toernooiveld 1, 6525 ED Nijmegen, The Netherlands e-mail:, Fax: 31-24-3652409 , , , , , , NL.


The flooding resistance of four Ranunculus species was studied under controlled conditions and related to the tactics used by these species to survive in their natural habitat in river floodplains. R. bulbosus, a species from seldom-flooded river levées, was relatively intolerant of both waterlogging and complete submergence, due to a constitutively low level of aerenchyma in the root system. This lack of gas spaces resulted in high mortality rates during flooding treatments and an inability to use photosynthetically derived oxygen for root respiration during complete submergence. The pioneer R. sceleratus, predominantly abundant in low lying mudflats, was very resistant to waterlogging and shallow floods. Due to its constitutively high root porosity and its ability to greatly increase the elongation rate of petioles under water this species can ameliorate flooding stress. However, when leaf blades of R. sceleratus were unable to reach the water surface, this species died as quickly as the flooding-intolerant R. bulbosus. This indicates that fast elongation of petioles under water competes for energy and respirable reserves with maintenance processes. R. repens, a species from lower, frequently inundated floodplains, was very tolerant of prolonged waterlogging and submergence. Its high resistance to complete submergence under continuous darkness indicates that this species tolerates hypoxic and/or anoxic tissue conditions via metabolic adjustments. Lysigenous aerenchyma was also induced in the primary root system and in newly developed laterals, and it was able to use oxygen generated by underwater photosynthesis, for root respiration. R. acris, a species from less frequently flooded areas, was as resistant to waterlogging and submergence in the light as R. repens. However, it has a lower resistance than R. repens to complete submergence in the dark. A submergence pre-treatment increased the maximum net underwater photosynthetic rate in R. bulbosus, whereas a significant decrease of light compensation points was observed in R. repens when it had previously been submerged. This study shows that Ranunculus species exhibit various strategies to cope with different flooding conditions. R. repens responds to flooding by its tolerance mechanism and R. sceleratus by avoidance. R. acris ameliorates submergence and R. bulbosus was not able to adapt high water tables.

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