Developmental instability in Rhus copallinum L. Multiple stressors, years, and responses

D. Carl Freeman, Michelle L. Brown, Jeffrey J. Duda, John H. Graham, John M. Emlen, Anthony J. Krzysik, Harold Balbach, Dave A. Kovacic, John C. Zak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Developmental instability, as assessed by leaf fluctuating asymmetry and stem internode allometry, was examined at nine sites, representing three levels of disturbance, over multiple years. Site selection was based on land-use disturbance classes related to training of mechanized infantry and other land management activities at Fort Benning, Georgia. Developmental instability varied among sites and years, and there was a strong site-by-year interaction for many traits. Indeed, depending on the year, the same site could be ranked as having the greatest and least amount of leaf fluctuating asymmetry. Burning a site the year prior to collecting the leaves profoundly influenced measures of leaf fluctuating asymmetry. In the absence of recent burning, leaf fluctuating asymmetry declined with increasing disturbance, but burning the year prior to collecting the leaves reversed this trend. Total plant cover, proportion of bare ground, and amount of plant litter influenced the amount of leaf asymmetry in a site-dependent manner. Overall, burning influenced the levels of developmental instability more than either disturbance or microhabitat variables such as total plant cover, which should reflect competition in a plant's immediate neighborhood.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-63
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Plant Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2004


  • Fire
  • Fluctuating asymmetry
  • Internode allometry
  • Soil disturbance
  • Sumac


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