Structural and functional plasticity of Quercus ilex seedlings of different provenances in Italy
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- Gratani, L., Meneghini, M., Pesoli, P. et al. Trees (2003) 17: 515. doi:10.1007/s00468-003-0269-8
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Functional and structural leaf traits of Quercus ilex seedlings originated from parent plant acorns from three different localities in Italy were studied. Acorns from three different localities along a gradient from the north to the south of Italy: Nago (site A) in the Garda Lake region at the northernmost limit of holm oak distribution area in Italy, Castelporziano near Rome (site B), at the centre of the distribution area, and Frassanito near Otranto (site C), in a drier area in the south of Italy. Morphological and anatomical leaf traits differed between the provenances with a higher leaf mass area, total leaf thickness and the ratio of palisade to mesophyll thickness in the driest provenance (C seedlings). These traits gave C seedlings a higher water use efficiency, relative water content at predawn and photosynthetic rates than the other provenances in high air temperature conditions. The smaller leaf area of A seedlings seemed to have a higher photosynthetic capacity in low air temperature conditions than B and C seedlings. Growth analysis underlined a higher shoot relative growth rate in B seedlings explaining the highest shoot length and leaf number per shoot. The plasticity index [sensu Valladares et al. (2000) Ecology 81:1925–1936] for physiological traits of the seedlings was higher than morphological and anatomical traits, but the largest differences in plasticity among ecotypes were found for morphological and anatomical traits. The ecotypes of Q. ilex studied here seemed to integrate, at leaf level, functions of growth activity, morphology and physiology related to the climate of the original provenance.