Department of Experimental and Functional Morphology

Head: prof. RNDr. Jitka Klimešová, CSc.

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Research topics

  • Disentangling the diversity of root sprouting vigor using data on hormonal balance in roots and root anatomy
  • Describing the economic spectrum of belowground coarse organs like rhizomes, thick roots, tubers, or bulbs and studying their persistence, anatomy, carbohydrate storage, and dry matter content
  • Assessing which functional traits promote plant persistence in insular systems
  • Examining disturbance responses by comparing clonal versus non-clonal plants
  • Investigating eco-physiological traits of aquatic carnivorous plants in relation to their growth, mineral nutrition, trap characteristics, and turion dormancy. 

The main research interest of our team are constraints that plant morphology is constituting for plant ecological functions. We test our ideas through manipulative experiments as well as using field assessments of plant traits and their distribution along environmental gradients.

In our studies, we use plant morphology, anatomy, and ecophysiology. To increase awareness of plant morphology and anatomy, we provide guidance in the form of databases, handbooks, and courses.

Selected recent results

1/ Evolution of clonal growth forms in angiosperms

Plants are propagated by seeds, however, many plants also propagate clonally using stolons, rhizomes or roots. Although clonality is common in plants, it has been paid little research attention; we do not know how it changed during evolution or what what functions it can provide. We sought this by phylogenetic analysis of approx. 3000 species of European flora. It showed great evolutionary flexibility of clonality. Plants thus can flexibly attain its functions when the environment requires it, and get rid of it just as easily.

Rozmanitost orgánů klonálního rozmnožování u rostlin
Diversity of clonal reproduction organs in plants. Plants can fairly easily switch among individual types of clonal reproduction, just as they can easily lose altogether or regain it back.

  • Herben, T.; Klimešová, J. (2020). Evolution of clonal growth forms in angiosperms. New Phytologist 225: 999–1010. doi: 10.1111/nph.16188

2/ How clonal and non-clonal plants cope with severe disturbance?

Generally, clonal plants are expected to deal with disturbance more successfully than non-clonal plants. It is because they have larger bud bank(from which new shoots are resprouting), and storage of carbohydrates (that fuels biomass reestablishment). In a garden experiment with 17 congeneric pairs differing by clonality, we applied various types of severe disturbance, for example cutting of aboveground parts, freezing and flooding. We found that both groups of plants have the same ability to regrow. Both groups, however, use specific strategies in coping with disturbance and this may lead to a different response later in their life. Clonal plants invest more energy to regenerating organs, non-clonal plants build more effective acquisitive ones, i.e. leaves and fine roots.

Skleníkový pokus studující strategie klonálních a neklonálních rostlin
Greenhouse experiment studying strategies of clonal vs non-clonal plants. Photo by J. Martínková

  • Martínková, J., Klimeš, A., Puy, J., & Klimešová, J. 2020. Response of clonal versus non-clonal herbs to disturbance: Different strategies revealed. Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics 44: 125529. doi: 10.1016/j.ppees.2020.125529
  • Martínková, J., Klimeš, A., & Klimešová, J. 2020. Young clonal and non-clonal herbs differ in growth strategy but not in aboveground biomass compensation after disturbance. Oecologia 193: 925–935. doi: 10.1007/s00442-020-04724-7

3/ Turions as a source of nitrogen, phosphorus and carbon for spring growth

Turions are dormant buds serving aquatic plants for overwintering, usually at the bottom of the water body. We investigated the content of resources needed for their spring regrowth and whether they differ according to ecological group of plants (carnivorous/non-carnivorous; rooting in depth/free floating, etc.) We found out that turions store preferentially starch that is partly consumed during winter. Turions are able to allocate about 40 % of total N and 60 % of total P to support the growth of new organs in spring. Photosynthetic pigment content is sufficient to ensure the high net photosynthetic rate of germinating turions. We did not support the hypothesis that storage of resources and their mobilization from turions differ among ecological groups of aquatic plants.

Zralé turiony bublinatky obecné
 Mature turions of common bladderwort (Utricularia vulgaris) can be up to 25 mm large. Photo by L. Adamec

  • Adamec, L., Kučerová, A., & Janeček, Š. 2020. Mineral nutrients, photosynthetic pigments and storage carbohydrates in turions of 21 aquatic plant species. Aquat. Bot. 165: e103238. doi: 10.1016/j.aquabot.2020.103238