Phenology of indigenous and alien vascular flowering plants on sub-Antarctic Marion Island

Mukhadi, Fulufhelo Licken (Stellenbosch : Stellenbosch University, 2011-03)

Thesis (MSc)--Stellenbosch University, 2011.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Species’ seasonal behaviour is of paramount importance in understanding community functioning and dynamics. Recently, plant phenology has further gained significance as a reliable indicator of climate change impacts. Despite the importance of understanding plant dynamics, there are relatively few plant phenological records for the sub-Antarctic region, and where records exist they are often not extensive. Sub-Antarctic Marion Island, typical of Southern Ocean Islands, offers a useful setting for addressing these knowledge gaps. This study documented the vegetative and reproductive phenologies (or aggregate phenological patterns) of twelve indigenous and three alien vascular plant species on the island. The phenological differences among the species and distinct seasonal groupings (e.g. early, intermediate and late species) were examined. I also investigated the phenological differences among the indigenous and alien plant species. Furthermore, the onset of selected reproductive phenophases from the current records was compared with historical records for determining the extent of climate change-related alterations in phenology. Phenological data were collected fortnightly on five, 5 m x 5 m permanent plots per species (except for a few species) for a full growing season. Thus the sample size is n = 5 for all plant species except for Crassula moschata (n = 4), Juncus effusus (n=4) and Rumex acetosella (n=1). Sites of the same species were separated by at least 500 m except for the alien plant, Juncus effusus, where all four known populations were selected despite two of these populations being < 500 m apart. This study indicated that Marion Island plants grow throughout the year with no major peaks except in Azorella selago and Acaena magellanica which showed winter dormancy. However, reproduction in most plant species predominately occurred in spring and summer months. Pringlea antiscorbutica and Poa cookii were the first two species to set flower buds in September while most species dispersed their seeds in summer except for Agrostis magellanica and Crassula moschata which dispersed in early autumn. Distinct from most temperate systems, the reproductive seasonality displayed by Marion Island plant species is explained more by daylength than by temperature, perhaps due to the region’s typical thermal aseasonality. Interestingly, many cooccurring species and/or clades across the Falkland, Kerguelen, Macquarie and South Georgia Islands also showed similar flowering onset date to the Marion Island plants, further confirming their daylength sensitivity. However, other external factors seem to come into play at later events of reproduction. Consequently, fruit maturation time of similar species across the sub-Antarctic islands varied substantially despite the plants having flowered in the same month. Although plant species showed similar reproductive seasonality, there were significant differences among species phenologies i.e. phenophase timing, duration and peak occurrence dates. However, using 95% confidence intervals of Generalized Linear Models weighted means, and/or one-way ANOVA (Tukey post hoc test), three homogenous sets of species (early, late, or intermediate onsets) were identified based on flower bud, flowering and seed dispersal phenophase onset dates. The homogenous species groupings observed for flower buds also remained unchanged during flowering onset except for Cotula plumosa and Callitriche antarctica which switched groups. As for the seed dispersal timing, the pattern was not consistent with that of the flower bud and flowering onset homogenous groupings, except for Acaena magellanica and Agrostis magellanica which remained in the early and late groups, respectively. Conversely, in the case of the timing of other phenophases (pollen release, fruit set and fruit ripening), entire phenophase durations, and peak occurrence dates, species overlapped greatly, resulting in an unbroken progression or continuum of phenology among species. Similarly, the three alien plant species investigated here (Cerastium fontanum, Juncus effusus and Rumex acetosella) showed no consistent phenological differences from the rest of the species. However, a widespread alien plant species on Marion Island, C. fontanum, reproduced for most of the year, although its reproduction peak was in summer months as was the case for the rest of the species. This study also indicated that indigenous plant species have altered their reproductive phenologies since 1965. Although the response was species-specific, the majority of plant species significantly delayed the onset of reproductive activities in 2007 by comparison with 1965. However, it is not clear if the observed species response was caused by the now drier and warmer Marion Island climate or by discrepancies in reporting in the earlier studies and/or sampling differences between the recent and historical records. Therefore, these results should be taken with caution. In conclusion, this research provided a detailed phenological dynamics record for vascular plant species on the island. Over time these records may be used as a basis for monitoring and modelling the impact of climate on plant phenology on the island.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Spesies se seisoenale gedrag is van die allergrootste belang in die begrip van gemeenskapsfunksionering en dinamika. Meer onlangs het plant fenologie verdere betekenis verwerf as ‘n betroubare indikator vir die impakte van klimaatsverandering. Ondanks die belangrikheid om plant dinamika te verstaan, is daar relatief min plant fenologiese rekords vir die sub-Antarktiese streek en waar rekords wel bestaan is dit dikwels nie omvangryk nie. Sub- Antarktiese Marion Eiland, tipies van Suidelike Oseaan Eilande, bied ‘n nuttige ligging om hierdie kennis gapings aan te spreek. Hierdie studie het die vegetatiewe en voorplantingsfenologieë (of gesamentlike fenologiese patrone) van elf inheemse en drie uitheemse vaatplantspesies op die eiland gedokumenteer. Die fenologiese verskille tussen die spesies en duidelike seisoenale groeperings (bv. vroeë, intermediêre en laat spesies) is ondersoek. Ek het ook die betekenisvolle fenologiese verskille tussen die inheemse en uitheemse plantspesies ondersoek. Voorts, die aanvang van gekose voortplanting feno-fases van huidige rekords is vergelyk met historiese rekords om die mate van klimaatsverandering verbandhoudende veranderings in die fenologie te bepaal. Fenologiese data is twee weekliks ingesamel op vyf, 5 m x 5 m permanente plotte per spesie (behalwe vir ‘n paar spesies) vir ‘n volle groei seisoen. Dus, die insamelings grootte is n = 5 vir al die plantspesies behalwe vir C. moschata (n = 4), Juncus effusus (n=4) en Rumex acetosella (n=1). Persele vir dieselfde spesies is geskei deur ten minste 500 m, behalwe vir die uitheemse plant, Juncus effusus, waar al vier populasies wat bekend is gekies is, ten spyte daarvan dat twee van hierdie populasies < 500 m uitmekaar is. Hierdie studie het aangedui dat Marion Eiland plante regdeur die jaar groei, met geen belangrike spitstye nie, behalwe in Azorella selago en Acaena magellanica wat ‘n winter rusperiode wys. Hoe ookal, voortplanting in meeste van die plantspesies het hoofsaaklik voorgekom tussen die lente en somermaande. Pringlea antiscorbutica en Poa cookii was die eerste twee spesies om blomknoppe uit te stoot in September, terwyl die meeste spesies hulle sade versprei het gedurende die somer, behalwe vir Agrostis magellanica en Crassula moschata wat versprei het in vroeg herfs. Duidelik van meeste gematigde sisteme, word die voortplanting seisoenaliteit, getoon deur die Marion Eiland plantspesies, verduidelik meer deur daglengte as deur temperatuur, moontlik weens die streek se tipiese termiese a-seisoenaliteit. Interessant, baie spesies en/of afstameling-groeperings wat saam aangtref word dwarsoor die Falkland, Kerguelen, Macquarie en Suid Georgia Eilande wys ook soortgelyke bloei aanvangsdatums as die Marion Eiland plante, nog meer bevestigend van hulle dag-lengte sensitieweteit. Hoe ookal, ander eksterne faktore blyk betrokke te raak by latere gebeure van voortplanting. Gevolglik het vrug rypwordingstyd van dieselfde spesies oor die sub-Antarktiek noemenswaardig verskil, ten spyte daarvan dat die plante in dieselfde maand geblom het. Alhoewel plantspesies dieselfde voortplanting seisoenaliteit gewys het, was daar ‘n noemenswaardige veskil tussen spesie fenologieë, m. a. w. feno-fase tydsberekenning, tydsduur en spits voorkomsdatums. Hoe ookal, deur gebruik te maak van 95% betroubaarheid intervalle van Algemene Lineêre Modelle gewigte gemiddelde en/of een rigting ANOVA (Turkey post hoc toets), is drie homogene stelle van spesies (vroeë, laat en intermediêre aanvang) geïdentifiseer gebasseer op blomknop, bloei en saad verspreiding feno-fase aanvangsdatums. Die homogene spesie groeperings waargeneem op blomknoppe het ook onveranderd gebly gedurende bloei aanvang behalwe vir Cotula plumosa en Crassula antarctica wat groepe geruil het. Vir die saadverspreiding tydsberekenning was die patroon nie konstant met die van die blomknop en bloei aanvang homogene groepe nie, behalwe vir Acaena magellanica en Agrostis magellanica wat in die vroeë en laat groepe respektiewelik gebly het. Omgekeerd, in die geval van tydsberekenning van ander feno-fases (stuifmeel vrysetelling, vrugwerp, vrugrypwording), volledige feno-fase tydsduur en spits voorkomsdatums het spesies grootliks oorvleuel, wat ‘n ongebroke vordering of deurlopendheid van fenologie tussen die spesies tot gevolg het. Ooreenkomstig het die drie uitheemse spesies wat hier ondersoek is (Cerastium fontanum, Juncus effusus en Rumex acetosella) geen bestendige fenologiese verskille van die res van die spesies gewys nie. Hoe ookal, ‘n wydverspreide uitheemse spesie op Marion Eiland, Cerastium fontanum, het deur die meeste van die jaar voortgeplant, hoewel met ‘n voorplanting spits in die somer maande soos die res van die spesies. Hierdie studie dui ook aan dat inheemse plantspesies hulle voortplanting fenologieë verander het sedert 1965. Alhoewel die reaksie spesiespesifiek was, het die meerderheid van die plantspesies hulle voortplanting aanvang aansienlik vertraag gedurende 2007 in vergelyking met 1965. Hoe ookal, dis nie duidelik of die waargeneemde spesie reaksie was as gevolg van die nou droër en warmer Marion Eiland klimaat of deur teenstrydighede in verslagewing gedurende die vroëre studies en/of insameling verskille tussen die onlangse en historiese rekords. Daarom moet hierdie resultate met versigtigheid hanteer word. In samevatting, hierdie navorsing voorsien ‘n gedetaileerde fenologiese dinamieka rekord vir vaatplantspesies op die eiland. Oor tyd kan hierdie rekords gebruik word as basis vir monitering en modellering van die impak van klimaat.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/6890
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