Understanding the genetic basis to landscape vegetation structure is an important step that will allow us to examine ecological and evolutionary processes at multiple spatial scales. Here for the first time we show that the fractal architecture of a dominant plant on the landscape exhibits high broad-sense heritability and thus has a genetic basis. The fractal architecture of trees is known to influence ecological communities associated with them. In a unidirectional cottonwood-hybridizing complex (Populus angustifolia × P. fremontii) pure and hybrid cottonwoods differed significantly in their fractal architecture, with phenotypic variance among backcross hybrids exceeding that of F1 hybrids and of pure narrowleaf cottonwoods by two-fold. This result provides a crucial link between genes and fractal scaling theory, and places the study of landscape ecology within an evolutionary framework.
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Vol. 58 • No. 9