Leaf fluctuating asymmetry of common plantain as an indicator of habitat quality
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Although developmental instability (DI), measured as fluctuating asymmetry (FA), is expected to be positively related to environmental stress and negatively to habitat quality, the pattern found here was the reverse. Developmental instability of leaf traits (leaf width and vein distances within a leaf) was estimated (using two indices of FA: FA(4) and sigma(2)(i)) and compared between three populations of Plantago major L. (Plantaginaceae) from northern Serbia. Two of the populations are from chronically polluted areas (Karaburma & Zemun), while Crni Lug is from an unpolluted, natural area. Results obtained using both FA indices were the same; higher asymmetry levels in the unpolluted area than in the polluted sites, were found for both traits. Between the two polluted sites, FA values were significantly higher in Karaburma site for vein distances within a leaf. Concerning differences in FA(4) values between samples, in two cases, results are similar to those found for sigma(2)(i) values, for vein distances within leaf These are the first quantitative data on P. major indicating that (i) plants living in the stressful sites are more symmetrical and (ii) leaf FA for plant species with wide ecological distribution such as P. major should be considered as an 'index of habitat quality.'.