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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 1998

Induction of overcompensation in the field gentian, Gentianella campestris

Lennartsson, T; Nilsson, P; Tuomi, J


We present field evidence for the induction of overcompensation, or increased fruit and seed yield as a consequence of damage, in the grassland biennial field gentian, Gentianella campestris (Gentianaceae). We compared equally sized clipped and unclipped plants in two populations in central Sweden during three years, 1992-1994, and plants clipped at different occasions, from 20 June to 2 August.Clipping once, by removing half of the biomass, significantly increased fruit production without affecting the number of seeds per fruit or seed mass. The degree of compensation was sensitive to the timing of clipping. Damage induced overcompensation only during a restricted inductive time period (ITP) in July. Plants clipped before about 1 July or after about 22 July achieved no overcompensation. The early limit of ITP was presumably determined by the availability of resources that could be mobilized for regrowth after damage. The late limit, on the other hand, depended primarily on the differentiation of meristems close to flowering in early August.The effects of clipping varied between years, presumably due to drought in 1994. During 1992-1993, plants consistently overcompensated for clipping on 1-20 July, whereas in 1994 only early clipping from 1 to 12 July induced overcompensation. In 1994, plants clipped in late July compensated less well, due to delayed fruit maturation leading to a high proportion of immature fruits at the end of the season. Because of this between-year variation, we used geometric mean fitness to calculate the expected long-term effects of damage over generations. The analysis suggests that the long-term effects can vary from positive to negative, depending on the frequency of bad fruiting years.The time limits of ITP fit well the hypothesis that predictable damage in July may have selected for a capacity of overcompensation in the field gentian. Because the ultimate limits of ITP are set by the length of the vegetation period, we expect overcompensation in this species to be more common in regions with a longer growing season.


fruit production; Gentianella campestris; geometric mean fitness; grazing; induction; lifetime success; mowing; overcompensation; phenology; temporal heterogeneity

Published in

1998, Volume: 79, number: 3, pages: 1061-1072

      SLU Authors

    • Lennartsson, Tommy

      • Department of Conservation Biology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Developmental Biology

    Publication Identifiers


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