Journal Article

Plant resource-use strategies: the importance of phenotypic plasticity in response to a productivity gradient for two subalpine species

Fabrice Grassein, Irène Till-Bottraud and Sandra Lavorel

in Annals of Botany

Published on behalf of The Annals of Botany Company

Volume 106, issue 4, pages 637-645
Published in print October 2010 | ISSN: 0305-7364
Published online August 2010 | e-ISSN: 1095-8290 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/aob/mcq154
Plant resource-use strategies: the importance of phenotypic plasticity in response to a productivity gradient for two subalpine species

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  • Ecology and Conservation
  • Evolutionary Biology
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Background and Aims

Functional traits are indicators of plant interactions with their environment and the resource-use strategies of species can be defined through some key functional traits. The importance of genetic variability and phenotypic plasticity in trait variations in response to a common environmental change was investigated in two subalpine species.

Methods

Two species with contrasted resource-use strategies, Dactylis glomerata and Festuca paniculata, were grown along a productivity gradient in a greenhouse experiment. Functional traits of different genotypes were measured to estimate the relative roles of phenotypic plasticity and genetic variability, and to compare their levels of phenotypic plasticity.

Key Results

Trait variability in the field for the two species is more likely to be the result of phenotypic plasticity rather than of genetic differentiation between populations. The exploitative species D. glomerata expressed an overall higher level of phenotypic plasticity compared with the conservative species F. paniculata. In addition to different amplitudes of phenotypic plasticity, the two species differed in their pattern of response for three functional traits relevant to resource use (specific leaf area, leaf dry matter content and leaf nitrogen content).

Conclusions

Functional trait variability was mainly the result of phenotypic plasticity, with the exploitative species showing greater variability. In addition to average trait values, two species with different resource-use strategies differed in their plastic responses to productivity.

Keywords: Plant functional traits; genetic variability; Dactylis glomerata; Festuca paniculata; subalpine grasslands

Journal Article.  6517 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Ecology and Conservation ; Evolutionary Biology ; Plant Sciences and Forestry

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