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PLoS One. 2013 Jul 30;8(7):e69836. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0069836. Print 2013.

Soil particle heterogeneity affects the growth of a rhizomatous wetland plant.

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School of Nature Conservation, Beijing Forestry University, Beijing, China.


Soil is commonly composed of particles of different sizes, and soil particle size may greatly affect the growth of plants because it affects soil physical and chemical properties. However, no study has tested the effects of soil particle heterogeneity on the growth of clonal plants. We conducted a greenhouse experiment in which individual ramets of the wetland plant Bolboschoenus planiculmis were grown in three homogeneous soil treatments with uniformly sized quartz particles (small: 0.75 mm, medium: 1.5 mm, or large: 3 mm), one homogeneous treatment with an even mixture of large and medium particles, and two heterogeneous treatments consisting of 16 or 4 patches of large and medium particles. Biomass, ramet number, rhizome length and spacer length were significantly greater in the treatment with only medium particles than in the one with only large particles. Biomass, ramet number, rhizome length and tuber number in the patchy treatments were greater in patches of medium than of large particles; this difference was more pronounced when patches were small than when they were large. Soil particle size and soil particle heterogeneity can greatly affect the growth of clonal plants. Thus, studies to test the effects of soil heterogeneity on clonal plants should distinguish the effects of nutrient heterogeneity from those of particle heterogeneity.

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