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Serpentine Geoecology of Western North AmericaGeology, Soils, and Vegetation$
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Earl B. Alexander, Roger G. Coleman, Todd Keeler-Wolfe, and Susan P. Harrison

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780195165081

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780195165081.001.0001

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Responses of Individual Plant Species to Serpentine Soils

Responses of Individual Plant Species to Serpentine Soils

9 Responses of Individual Plant Species to Serpentine Soils
Serpentine Geoecology of Western North America

Earl B. Alexander

Roger G. Coleman

Todd Keeler-Wolfe

Susan P. Harrison

Oxford University Press

In this chapter we summarize current knowledge of the physiological, evolutionary, and distributional effects of serpentine on individual plant species (see also the excellent review of the evolutionary ecology of serpentine plants by Brady et al. [2005]) A useful terminology for discussing plant responses to serpentine is Kruckeberg’s classification of species as serpentine avoiders, indifferents, endemics, and indicators (Kruckeberg 1954, 1984). Serpentine avoiders are taxa that are seldom or never found on serpentine, whereas indifferent (or bodenvag) taxa are found with roughly equivalent frequencies on and off of serpentine. Endemics are species or subspecific taxa that are entirely or almost entirely restricted to serpentine. Serpentine indicators are taxa that are either locally more common on serpentine than on other substrates or restricted to serpentine in only parts of their geographic or ecological ranges. As with any classification system, this one is only a starting point for understanding natural variation. Plant responses form a continuum from complete restriction to serpentine on one hand and complete avoidance of it on the other, and many taxa lie in between, with markedly higher or (more often) lower abundances on serpentine. It is especially common for species to be partly restricted to serpentine but also to occur on other unusual substrates (e.g., limestone, acid soils, or scree; Rune 1953), or for species to be restricted to serpentine at lower but not at higher elevations or latitudes (Rune 1953, Kruckeberg 1984, Brooks 1987). The degree of restriction to serpentine also commonly depends on the strength of other influential environmental variables such as climate, and on the history and diversity of the surrounding region. Moreover, “indifferent” taxa often show divergence into serpentine-tolerant and intolerant ecotypes, which may or may not represent the early stages of formation of new endemic species. Many fascinating ecological and evolutionary questions thus lie at the transitions between avoidance, indifference, indicator status, and endemism. Serpentine endemics have been further classified in terms of their inferred evolutionary history as either neo- or paleoendemics. Neoendemics (called “true serpentinophytes” by Rune 1953) are species that are thought to have originated through a localized shift onto serpentine, as evidenced by their narrow present-day geographic distributions and the proximity of closely related taxa on other substrates.

Keywords:   ocean

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