Biodiversity Science ›› 2012, Vol. 20 ›› Issue (3): 286-299.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1003.2012.14039

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Advances in the studies of reproductive strategies of alpine plants

Deli Peng1, Zhiqiang Zhang2, Yang Niu2, Yang Yang2, Bo Song2, Hang Sun2, Zhimin Li1*   

  1. 1School of Life Science, Yunnan Normal University, Kunming 650092

    2Key Laboratory of Biodiversity and Biogeography, Kunming Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Kunming 650204
  • Received:2012-01-30 Revised:2012-04-25 Online:2012-05-09
  • Zhimin Li

The alpine regions are regarded as one of the most extreme land environments due mainly to of harsh environmental conditions. However, these regions have very distinctive and diverse alpine plants, and the reproductive strategies of these species are an area of concern for many researchers. In this paper, we summarize previous research on reproductive strategies of alpine plants, including resource allocation, the responses of the flower morphology to abiotic factors, animal pollination and the adaptive mechanism of alpine plants, fruits and seeds, and clonal reproduction. For example, some special floral structures adapt to low temperature and inadequate water in the alpine belt by flower heliotropism, floral closure, pubescence and semi-translucent bracts. Additionally, harsh and stochastic climate conditions lead to a paucity of pollinators. Selfing mechanisms such as delayed selfing, autonomous selfing, and clonal reproduction and abiotic pollination (anemophily) adaptions to the lack of pollinators. As for insect pollinated plants, resource allocations of reproduction structure have increased, with enlarged “advertisement” investments. These advertisements can increase pollination rates through bigger floral displays or elongation of flower longevity. Additionally, plant species possessing a generalized floral structure and the ability to flower in different seasons can also improve the probability of reproduction success. Furthermore, dry fruits and a persistent seed bank aid in alpine plant seed dispersal and germination. Combined with our previous research, we highlight four subjects for future study: (1) selection on the flower morphology of alpine plants by abiotic factors; (2) seasonal variation and reproductive strategy; (3) the interaction of pollinators and plants at the community level; and (4) response of alpine ecosystems to global warming.

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