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Hyperaccumulators not only create special allocation patterns for the sequestration of metals to prevent toxicity, but often tolerate otherwise toxic soil metal concentrations (Brunner and Sperisen 2013; de Andrade 2010).It is common for metallophytes to have low productivity (low shoot/root mass ratios, short internodes, short leaves), a stout root system, increased sclerophylly, tolerance to N- and P-deficiency and resistance to drought (Baker 2005; Sambatti and Rice 2007).As a whole, physiological changes are related to C and N metabolism and, thus, regulated by leaf C/N ratio that may function as a physiological proxy (Correia and Martins-Loução 1997; Loveless 1961; Martins-Loução and Lips 2000).Accumulation of C products, in conjunction with small and dense leaves, can be evaluated using leaf sclerophylly, an ecophysiological indicator of environmental stress, particularly in Mediterranean plants (Anacker 1992).This work, based on ecophysiological field studies, provides support for the Inclusive Niche Hypothesis relating to plant species.The realized niche concept (Colwell and Rangel 2009) revisited after Hutchinson (1957), takes into account all the direct ties between abiotic environment and species interactions.
These plants occur mostly over hardpan outcrops (a cemented sesquioxide layer), rich in Al and Fe, that form a mosaic landscape with the surrounding podzolized sand deposits (loamy sand podzol; Cardoso 1965).
This implies that the species’ realized niche would not necessarily reflect the optimal physiological performance for the individuals.
This kind of framework is unusual in analysis of plant communities (Mc Gill 2012) but more frequently applied in animal systems (Colwell and Fuentes 1975).
In conservation biology of rare/endemic species, the niche concept offers novel approaches to classical questions (Gaston 2012; Harrison 2010).
Population stability and distribution depend on both genetic and environmental-based variation in functional traits and thus, on their ecological performance.