Sexual Reproduction of Wetland Angiosperms

In general, sexual reproduction in plants is thought to be advantageous in changing or heterogeneous environments, while asexual reproduction is favored in stable or uniform habitats. Many wetland habitats are generally thought to be relatively stable due to the buffering capacity of water and predictable daily and seasonal changes. Nearly all wetland plants reproduce asexually and in many, sexual reproduction is rare.

Because wetland habitats are often stable, why should sexual reproduction exist there at all? In fact, wetland environments can be unstable. Short-term changes in water level due to sudden flooding or droughts can bring about drastic variations in the growth conditions of wetland plants. Within the time frame of plant evolutionary processes, such habitat-altering and land-forming forces as glaciation and continental drift have brought about changes in wetland habitats. Vascular wetland plants adapt to these changes through genetic selection that occurs with sexual reproduction. Sexual reproduction also allows for genetic responses to pathogen outbreaks, which are unpredictable and can negatively affect a population at any time (Ehrlich and Raven 1969; Philbrick and Les 1996).

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