General Importance of Physiological Processes for Fitness at the Community Level

Fitness is frequently defined and quantified as the number of seeds produced ('Darwinian fitness'). However, this may cause difficulties, because it is too limited a view. This is readily recognized when we consider, for example, K- and r-strategies of plants with small and high seed numbers, respectively, or clonal growth, where particular plant species may dominate entire ecosystems without any generative propagation. Germination of seeds and establishment and survival of seedlings are essential. Thus, we see that the entire complement of physiological processes contributes to fitness, for example, in addition to the capacity of photosynthesis treated above in some detail as a special case story, and similarly important functions such as dormancy of seeds with germination at the ecologically appropriate time and the physiology of development, competition, defense, and mutualism as alluded to above.

See also: Deserts; Ecophysiology; Evapotranspiration; Mangrove Wetlands; Organismal Ecophysiology; Physiological Ecology; Respiration; Salinity; Savanna; Transport over Membranes; Tropical Rainforest.

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