Adaptive phenology of desert and Mediterranean populations of annual plants grown with and without water stress
- Cite this article as:
- Aronson, J., Kigel, J., Shmida, A. et al. Oecologia (1992) 89: 17. doi:10.1007/BF00319010
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The dynamics of vegetative and reproductive growth were compared in matched pairs of Mediteranean and desert populations of three unrelated annual species, Erucaria hispanica (L.) Druce, Brachypodium distachyon (L.) Beauv. and Bromus fasciculatus C. Presl., under high and low levels of water availability in a common-environment experiment. Plants of all desert populations showed earlier switches to reproductive development and to subsequent phenophases, and the transition to flowering occurred at smaller plant sizes. Water stress had no effect (E. hispanica) or slightly accelerated the transition to flowering in B. fasciculatus (by 1–2 days) and in B. distachyon (by 4–6 days). Plant senescence was strongly enhanced by water stress, and this enhancement was greater in desert populations than in corresponding Mediterranean ones. Duration of life cycle was greatly shortened by water stress in all three species. Desert and Mediterranean populations of the three species exhibited small differences in their relative response, i.e. phenotypic plasticity, to water stress for phenological and plant size parameters. In E. hispanica and B. fasciculatus the population x water regime interaction amounted to less than 3% of total variance. By contrast, the Mediterranean population of B. distachyon was much more plastic in its response to water stress than the desert population in its transition to plant senescence. Plants from the desert populations appeared to be adapted to shorter, more compact growth cycles, culminating in earlier dates of seed maturation and plant senescence. In addition, they showed larger phenotypic plasticity in the transition to plant senescence, which trait was enhanced or magnified by sustained or repeated lack of water. By contrast, plants from Mediterranean populations delayed switchover from one phenophase to the next, seeming thus to “bet” on more water being forthcoming.