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The effects of altitude, aspect, grazing and time on the proportion of cyanogenics in neighbouring populations of Trifolium repens L. (white clover)

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Adrian Richards


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The proportion of cyanogenic individuals of white clover amongst 200 individuals in each of 32 neighbouring populations in Northumberland, UK were recorded. Sites differed for four altitude zones, two aspects, and were either sheep pasture or ungrazed meadow. The proportion of cyanogenics showed a striking reduction with increasing altitude. Below 100 m, north-facing sites contained more cyanogenics than south-facing sites, but aspect did not affect higher sites. Grassland management had no effect on the proportion of cyanogenics. A 24-year study of one population showed highly significant changes in the proportion of cyanogenics over time, suggesting that a significant turnover of individuals occurs. In some cases, different size class cohorts varied for the proportion of cyanogenics within a year, and the same cohort varied between years. We conclude that environment at birth may determine the proportion of cyanogenics for that cohort, so that this proportion persists in that cohort as it matures. Comparisons of the proportion of cyanogenics with mean monthly averages for January minimum temperature, July maximum temperature and August rainfall showed a significant association only with mean January minima 21/2 years previously. We hypothesise that the 2 to 3-year cohort may predominate in this population. We suggest that winter cold and summer drought may both select against cyanogenics. Grazing by large herbivores does not favour cyanogenesis, but some invertebrate herbivory may do so. Most selection probably occurs at birth and will be greatest in populations with a high turnover.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Richards AJ, Fletcher A

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Heredity

Year: 2002

Volume: 88

Issue: 6

Pages: 432-436

ISSN (print): 0018-067X

ISSN (electronic): 1365-2540

Publisher: Nature Publishing Group


DOI: 10.1038/sj/hdy/6800075

PubMed id: 12180084


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