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Harvard Forest Data Archive


Ecophysiology of Carnivorous Plants Worldwide 1980-2011

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  • Lead: Aaron Ellison, Lubomir Adamec
  • Investigators:
  • Contact: Information Manager
  • Start date: 1980
  • End date: 2011
  • Status: complete
  • Location: Global
  • Latitude: -90 to +90 degrees
  • Longitude: -180 to +180 degrees
  • Elevation:
  • Datum: WGS84
  • Taxa: Dionaea sp., Drosera sp., Nepenthes sp., Pinguicula sp., Sarracenia sp., Triphyophyllum sp., Utricularia sp.
  • Release date: 2023
  • Language: English
  • EML file: knb-lter-hfr.168.10
  • DOI: digital object identifier
  • EDI: data package
  • DataONE: data package
  • Related links:
  • Study type: short-term measurement
  • Research topic: physiological ecology, population dynamics and species interactions
  • LTER core area: population studies
  • Keywords: carnivorous plants, evolution, photosynthesis, plant physiology, respiration
  • Abstract:

    Identification of trade-offs among physiological and morphological traits and their use in cost-benefit models and ecological or evolutionary optimization arguments have been hallmarks of ecological analysis for at least 50 years. Carnivorous plants are model systems for studying a wide range of ecophysiological and ecological processes and the application of a cost-benefit model for the evolution of carnivory by plants has provided many novel insights into trait-based cost-benefit models. Central to the cost-benefit model for the evolution of botanical carnivory is the relationship between nutrients and photosynthesis; of primary interest is how carnivorous plants efficiently obtain scarce nutrients that are supplied primarily in organic form as prey, digest and mineralize them so that they can be readily used, and allocate them to immediate versus future needs. Most carnivorous plants are terrestrial - they are rooted in sandy or peaty wetland soils - and most studies of cost-benefit trade-offs in carnivorous plants are based on terrestrial carnivorous plants. However more than 10% of carnivorous plants are unrooted aquatic plants. By examining data published between 1980 and 2011, we ask whether the cost-benefit model applies equally well to aquatic carnivorous plants and what general insights into trade-off models are gained by this comparison. Nutrient limitation is more pronounced in terrestrial carnivorous plants, which also have much lower growth rates and much higher ratio of dark respiration to photosynthetic rates than aquatic carnivorous plants. Phylogenetic constraints on ecophysiological trade-offs among carnivorous plants remain unexplored. Despite differences in detail, the general cost-benefit framework continues to be of great utility in understanding the evolutionary ecology of carnivorous plants. We provide a research agenda that if implemented would further our understanding of ecophysiological trade-offs in carnivorous plants and also would provide broader insights into similarities and differences between aquatic and terrestrial plants of all types.

  • Methods:

    We review literature on carnivorous plant ecophysiology published between 1980 and 2011. These data are placed in the context of a broader understanding of differences and similarities in fundamental ecophysiological traits - structural characteristics, growth patterns and rates, photosynthesis, and nutrient uptake and use - of aquatic and terrestrial carnivorous plants. We then use these contrasts to assess cost-benefit relationships among these traits in aquatic and terrestrial carnivorous plants and ask whether these patterns can inform trait-based models for plants growing in either terrestrial or aquatic habitats. In addition, we explore how phylogeny may have constrained observed patterns of the evolution of botanical carnivory. This broad analysis is used to outline a set of research needs to further our understanding of the evolutionary physiology of carnivorous plants and to incorporate them fully into general trait-based models of plant form and function.

    For more details see: Ellison, A. M., and L. Adamec. 2011. Ecophysiological traits of terrestrial and aquatic carnivorous plants: are the costs and benefits the same? Oikos.

  • Organization: Harvard Forest. 324 North Main Street, Petersham, MA 01366, USA. Phone (978) 724-3302. Fax (978) 724-3595.

  • Project: The Harvard Forest Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) program examines ecological dynamics in the New England region resulting from natural disturbances, environmental change, and human impacts. (ROR).

  • Funding: National Science Foundation LTER grants: DEB-8811764, DEB-9411975, DEB-0080592, DEB-0620443, DEB-1237491, DEB-1832210.

  • Use: This dataset is released to the public under Creative Commons CC0 1.0 (No Rights Reserved). Please keep the dataset creators informed of any plans to use the dataset. Consultation with the original investigators is strongly encouraged. Publications and data products that make use of the dataset should include proper acknowledgement.

  • License: Creative Commons Zero v1.0 Universal (CC0-1.0)

  • Citation: Ellison A, Adamec L. 2023. Ecophysiology of Carnivorous Plants Worldwide 1980-2011. Harvard Forest Data Archive: HF168 (v.10). Environmental Data Initiative:

Detailed Metadata

hf168-01: relative growth rate

  1. rgr: relative growth rate (unit: gramPerGramPerDay / missing value: NA)
  2. lifeform: one of: Aquatic carnivorous, Aquatic rooted herbs, Aquatic unrooted herbs,Terrestrial carnivorous, Terrestrial graminoid, Terrestrial herbaceous dicots
  3. species: Latin binomial (Genus + species)
  4. reference: original data source. See file hf168-04-references.csv

hf168-02: dark respiration and photosynthesis

  1. rd: mass-based dark respiration rate in nmol CO2 g-1 s-1 (unit: nanomolePerGramPerSecond / missing value: NA)
  2. amax: mass-based net photosynthetic rate in nmol CO2 g-1 s-1 (unit: nanomolePerGramPerSecond / missing value: NA)
  3. type: one of: Aquatic carnivorous,Terrestrial carnivorous, Aquatic unrooted herbs, Aquatic rooter herbs
  4. category: refers to the plant part actually measured
    • plant: carnivorous structure is both leaf and trap
    • lamina: non-carnivorous trap-supporting structure in Nepenthes or phyllodia in Sarracenia
    • traps: carnivorous trap
    • leaves: non-carnivorous leaves in Utricularia or leaves in non-carnivorous plants
  5. species: Latin binomial (Genus + species)
  6. suppfeed: binary
    • 1: plant received supplemental prey or nutrients
    • 0: plant received no supplemental prey or nutrients
  7. reference: original data source. See file hf168-04-references.csv

hf168-03: NPK

  1. family: plant family
  2. species: Latin binomial (Genus + species)
  3. lamina: lamina
    • 1: trap measured
    • 0: non-carnivorous trap-supporting structure in Nepenthes measured
  4. lifeform: lifeform
    • ACP: aquatic carnivorous plant
    • TCP: terrestrial carnivorous plant
  5. n: percent nitrogen in tissue (percent of dry mass) (unit: dimensionless / missing value: NA)
  6. p: percent phosphorus in tissue (percent of dry mass) (unit: dimensionless / missing value: NA)
  7. k: percent potassium in tissue (percent of dry mass) (unit: dimensionless / missing value: NA)
  8. reference: original data source. See file hf168-04-references.csv

hf168-04: references

  1. reference: reference