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Title: Structure-function relationships in the water-use strategies and ecological diversity of the Bromeliaceae
Author: Males, Jamie Oliver
ISNI:       0000 0004 6424 5517
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2017
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The Bromeliaceae is one of the largest and most ecologically diverse angiosperm families in the Neotropics. In recent years, this family has begun to emerge as a model system for the study of plant evolutionary ecology and physiology, and major advances have been made in understanding the factors involved in episodes of rapid diversification and adaptive radiation in specific bromeliad lineages. However, despite a long tradition of ecophysiological research on the Bromeliaceae, an integrative, evolutionarily-contextualised synthesis of the links between anatomical) physiological, and ecological aspects of bromeliad biology has hitherto been lacking. The overarching aim of this research project was therefore to use new quantitative data representing a wide range of bromeliad taxonomic and functional groups to elucidate how variation in leaf traits connected by structure-function relationships influences ecological differentiation among bromeliad taxa. Special emphasis was placed on hydraulic and water relations traits because of fast-paced contemporary developments in these fields. The methodologies employed included an assessment of the diversity of bromeliad hydrological habitat occupancy, quantification of key anatomical and physiological traits and their correlations, investigation of the links between vascular and extra-xylary anatomy and hydraulic efficiency and vulnerability, quantification of stomatal sensitivity to leaf-air vapour pressure deficit and stomatal kinetics, and a case study of trait-mediated niche segregation among congeneric epiphytic bromeliad species on the Caribbean island of Trinidad. The results highlight how divergences in a range of continuous and categorical anatomical traits underpin differences in physiological capacities and sensitivities, which in turn determine environmental relations and ecological distinctiveness. This research project therefore provides critical insights into the mechanistic basis of evolutionary diversification in a highly ecologically important family. It also represents the most comprehensive analysis of the significance of trait variation for ecological differentiation across any major radiation of herbaceous angiosperms.
Supervisor: Griffiths, Howard Sponsor: Natural Environmental Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: bromeliaceae ; plant ecophysiology ; plant hydraulics