We used developmental instability, water potential, and variable fluorescence to determine if populations of winged sumac (Rhus copallinum) were being negatively effected by military training disturbance. We established nine sites that represented a land-use disturbance gradient with three impact levels (low, medium, and high), the effects mostly due to mechanized infantry training maneuvers. Although mean values of developmental instability, water potential, and variable fluorescence differed significantly among sites, the patterns did not consistently differentiate sites relative to the disturbance gradient. At the population level, some measures of developmental instability and variable fluorescence were positively correlated. All nine sites consisted of habitat mosaics, with the abundance of higher quality habitat patches and canopy gaps closely related to habitat impacts. It may be that R. copallinum is selecting similar micro-environments at all sites and therefore minimizing inter-site variation in stress measures, despite large differences in overall habitat condition. Our results call for caution in developing ecological indicators using the response of physiological and morphological measures from a single plant species. ?? 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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Estimating disturbance effects from military training using developmental instability and physiological measures of plant stress