Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Rooted Plants Move Mysteriously Down Greenways

Date:
December 8, 2008
Source:
University of Florida
Summary:
The wild pea pod is big and heavy, with seemingly little prayer of escaping the shade of its parent plant.

The wild pea pod is big and heavy, with seemingly little prayer of escaping the shade of its parent plant.

And yet, like a grounded teenager who knows where the car keys are hidden, it manages – if it has a reasonable chance of escape.

University of Florida researchers working at the world’s largest experimental landscape devoted to wildlife corridors – greenways that link woods or other natural areas — have discovered the pea and similar species share, given a clear shot, a mysterious ability for mobility. Though their seeds are neither dispersed by birds nor borne by the wind, they are nevertheless far more likely to slalom down corridors than slog through woods.

The findings are revealed in a paper that appears this week in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Corridors surprisingly benefit pretty much everything, including species that have no obvious mechanism for getting around in the first place,” said Doug Levey, a UF professor of zoology and one of six authors of the paper.

Movement is a big challenge for the vast majority of plants, rooted as they are in the ground. Some overcome it by making seeds gobbled by birds, then defecated at points unknown. Other plants have evolved light seeds, or aerodynamically adept ones, designed to be ferried hither and thither in the wind.

But many plants produce seeds with no seeming mode of transport, suggesting, for those species, a measured march rather than a rapid run.

And yet …

Levey and colleagues at Washington University in St. Louis and North Carolina State University have spent the past eight years studying how corridors affect plants and animals at a massive experimental site at the Savannah River Site National Environmental Research Park on the South Carolina-Georgia state line.

In past papers, they have reported that corridors appear to help both wildlife and plants, especially native species. Those findings are among the most rigorous scientific validations of the national and state trend toward spending public dollars on buying and preserving “green” corridors connecting woods or wetlands in urban or rural areas.

In the new paper, the researchers report the results of research aimed at learning how corridors affect plant species with innately different abilities to get around.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the scientists found that wind-borne plants and bird-dispersed plants colonize wildlife habitats connected by corridors more quickly and at farther distances than they do isolated habitats. The surprise was that the same is true for what the scientists consider “unassisted” plants, or those with no obvious means of moving their seeds.

The result left the researchers puzzled. “We come right out and say in the paper that we don’t understand this,” Levey said.

Physical forces clearly aren’t adequate to cause the phenomenon, the paper notes.

“Gravity dispersal from low-growing shrubs, forbs and grasses, which typically moves a seed no more than a few meters per year, cannot account for the rapid colonization of connected patches 150 meters distant,” the paper says.

With no obvious alternative, Levey said one possible explanation is that the plants’ seeds aren’t as unassisted as they appear. For example, it’s possible that herbivores eat the seeds, even if they are not recognized as normal forage. “My hunch is that these plants are browsed by deer that are really after the leaves,” Levey said. “They eat the seeds along with the leaves, and then defecate the seeds somewhere else.”

Perhaps improbably, given the randomness of deer defecation, the researchers are testing this hypothesis.

Caleb Hickman, a graduate student in the Washington University Ecology, Evolution, and Population Biology Program, has collected fecal samples left behind not only by deer, but also by a variety of mammals at Savannah River experimental sites.

He is planting the samples in soil in a Washington University greenhouse. The goal: to see if previously classified “unassisted” plant species seedlings emerge.

That would prove that like many teenagers, plants are much more creative about getting around than most people suspect.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Florida. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Florida. "Rooted Plants Move Mysteriously Down Greenways." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 December 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081203184934.htm>.
University of Florida. (2008, December 8). Rooted Plants Move Mysteriously Down Greenways. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081203184934.htm
University of Florida. "Rooted Plants Move Mysteriously Down Greenways." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081203184934.htm (accessed July 30, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle

AP (July 30, 2014) Thousands of people are trekking to a Bavarian farmer's field to check out a mysterious set of crop circles. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Concern Grows Over Worsening Ebola Crisis

Concern Grows Over Worsening Ebola Crisis

AFP (July 30, 2014) Pan-African airline ASKY has suspended all flights to and from the capitals of Liberia and Sierra Leone amid the worsening Ebola health crisis, which has so far caused 672 deaths in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Duration: 00:43 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey

At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey

AP (July 30, 2014) At least 20 New Jersey residents have tested positive for chikungunya, a mosquito-borne virus that has spread through the Caribbean. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Otters Enjoy Water Slides at Japan Zoo

Raw: Otters Enjoy Water Slides at Japan Zoo

AP (July 30, 2014) River otters were hitting the water slides to beat the summer heatwave on Wednesday at Ichikawa City's Zoological and Botanical Garden. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins