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Ellison Abstract- 1988 Ellison and Nikas

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Ellison, A. M., and K. J. Nikas. 1988. Branching patterns of Salicornia europaea (Chenopodiaceae) at different successional stages: a comparison of theoretical and real plants. American Journal of Botany 75: 501-512.


Salicornia europaea L. (Chenopodiaceae) is an annual succulent halophyte that lacks leaves, is photosynthetically active over its entire surface, and branches in a predictable manner. A computer model based on that of Niklas and Kerchner (1984) was used to generate S. europaea-like branching patterns. The model was used to predict the morphology of S. europaea that could maximize light interception and minimize the total bending moment. The optimal branching pattern generated by the computer corresponded very closely to the form of S. europaea found in late-successional populations. The progression of model forms from the least efficient (lowest total projected surface area and highest bending moment) to the most efficient (highest projected surface area and lowest bending moment) parallels the observed phenotypic changes in morphology of S. europaea over the course of succession in New England salt marshes. Based on computer simulations, we conclude that morphological changes in the branching patterns of S. europaea during succession correspond to alterations of shape capable of coincidentally maximizing the interception of light and minimizing the total bending moment.

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