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Natural selection on the plant-water relations of Cleome serrulata growing along natural moisture gradients

Summary

I investigated the extent and adaptive importance of genetically-based variation in plant water relations in two populations of the annual plant Cleome serrulata found growing along relatively short (<30 m) and mild soil moisture gradients. Field measurements of predawn plant water potentials showed that plants at the dry end of the moisture gradients had consistently lower ψPlant in May and June of 1984; differences up to 0.9 MPa were seen along the gradients. Seeds were collected from maternal plants growing along the moisture gradients and then grown under well-watered conditions in the greenhouse. Pressure-volume curves were constructed for a total of 92 seedlings from 25 maternal plants when the seedlings were four weeks old.

Considerable genetic variation in the four highly correlated water potential components was seen in both populations, suggesting relatively high heritabilities (h2≈0.5). A partial correlation analysis revealed that cell wall elasticity was higher in seedlings from maternal plants which grew in the dry portions of each site. This suggested that natural selection had acted on this character during one or more previous generations. It appears that slight variations in the physiological genotype can significantly affect overall fitness in C. serulata.

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Farris, M.A. Natural selection on the plant-water relations of Cleome serrulata growing along natural moisture gradients. Oecologia 72, 434–439 (1987). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00377576

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Cleome

  • Population variability
  • Adaptation to water stress
  • Water potential
  • Pressure volume curves