This study addressed the floral component traits and biomass allocation patterns of Gentiana hexaphylla as well as the relationships of these parameters along an elevation gradient (approximately 3700 m, 3800 m, 3900 m, and 4000 m) on the eastern Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. The plant height, floral characteristics, and biomass allocation of G. hexaphylla were measured at different altitudes after field sampling, sorting, and drying. Plant height was significantly greater at 3700 m than that at other elevations. Flower length was significantly greater at 4000 m than that at other elevations, whereas the flower length at low elevations showed no significant differences. Corolla diameter increased with altitude, although the difference was not significant between 3800 m and 3900 m. Variations in biomass accumulation, including the aboveground, photosynthetic organ, flower and belowground biomasses, showed non-linear responses to changes in altitude. The aboveground and photosynthetic organ biomasses reached their lowest values at 4000 m, whereas the belowground and flower biomass reached minimum values at 3700 m. The sexual reproductive allocation of G. hexaphylla also increased with altitude, with a maximum observed at 4000 m. These results suggest that external environmental factors and altitudinal gradients as well as the biomass accumulation and allocation of G. hexaphylla play crucial roles in plant traits and significantly affect the ability of this species to adapt to harsh environments. The decreased number of flowers observed at higher altitudes may indicate a compensatory response for the lack of pollinators at high elevations, which is also suggested by the deformed flower shapes at high altitudes. In addition, the individual plant biomass (i.e., plant size) had significantly effect on flower length and corolla diameter. Based on the organ biomass results, the optimal altitude for G. hexaphylla in the eastern Qinghai-Tibet Plateau is 3800 m, where the plant exhibits minimum propagule biomass and asexual reproductive allocation.
Journal of Mountain Science – Springer Journals
Published: Aug 4, 2017
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