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Journal Article

Evolutionary size changes in plants of the south-west Pacific


Herold,  N.
Soil and Ecosystem Processes, Dr. M. Schrumpf, Department Biogeochemical Processes, Prof. S. E. Trumbore, Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Max Planck Society;

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Burns, K. C., Herold, N., & Wallace, B. (2012). Evolutionary size changes in plants of the south-west Pacific. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 21(8), 819-828. doi:10.1111/j.1466-8238.2011.00730.x.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-000E-DD21-E
Aim To investigate evolutionary changes in the size of leaves, stems and seeds of plants inhabiting isolated islands surrounding New Zealand. Location Antipodes, Auckland, Campbell, Chatham, Kermadec, Three Kings and Poor Knights Islands. Methods First, we compared the size of leaves and stems produced by 14 pairs of plant taxa between offshore islands and the New Zealand mainland, which were grown in a common garden to control for environmental effects. Similar comparisons of seed sizes were made between eight additional pairs of taxa. Second, we used herbarium specimens from 13 species pairs to investigate scaling relationships between leaf and stem sizes in an attempt to pinpoint which trait might be under selection. Third, we used herbarium specimens from 20 species to test whether changes in leaf size vary among islands located at different latitudes. Lastly, we compiled published records of plant heights to test whether insular species in the genus Hebe differed in size from their respective subgenera on the mainland. Results Although some evidence of dwarfism was observed, most insular taxa were larger than their mainland relatives. Leaf sizes scaled positively with stem diameters, with island taxa consistently producing larger leaves for any given stem size than mainland species. Leaf sizes also increased similarly among islands located at different latitudes. Size changes in insular Hebe species were unrelated to the average size of the respective subgenera on the mainland. Main conclusions Consistent evidence of gigantism was observed, suggesting that plants do not obey the island rule. Because our analyses were restricted to woody plants, results are also inconsistent with the weeds-to-trees hypothesis. Disproportionate increases in leaf size relative to other plant traits suggest that selection may favour the evolution of larger leaves on islands, perhaps due to release from predation or increased intra-specific competition.