, Volume 52, Issue 3, pp 386–396 | Cite as

Leaf traits variation in Sesleria nitida growing at different altitudes in the Central Apennines

  • L. Gratani
  • M. F. Crescente
  • V. D’Amato
  • C. Ricotta
  • A. R. Frattaroli
  • G. Puglielli
Original Papers


Global climate change may act as a potent agent of natural selection within species with Mediterranean mountain ecosystems being particularly vulnerable. The aim of this research was to analyze whether the phenotypic plasticity of Sesleria nitida Ten. could be indicative of its future adaptive capability to global warming. Morphological, anatomical, and physiological leaf traits of two populations of S. nitida growing at different altitudes on Mount Terminillo (Italy) were analyzed. The results showed that leaf mass per unit leaf area, leaf tissue density, and total leaf thickness were 19, 3, and 31% higher in leaves from the population growing at 1,895 m a.s.l. (B site) than in leaves from the population growing at 1,100 m a.s.l. (A site), respectively. Net photosynthetic rate (P N) and respiration rate (R D) peaked in June in both A and B leaves [9.4 ± 1.3 μmol(CO2) m−2 s−1 and 2.9 ± 0.9 μmol(CO2) m−2 s−1, respectively] when mean air temperature was 16 ± 2°C. R D/P N was higher in B than in A leaves (0.35 ± 0.07 and 0.21 ± 0.03, respectively, mean of the study period). The mean plasticity index (PI = 0.24, mean of morphological, anatomical, and physiological leaf traits) reflected S. nitida adaptability to the environmental stress conditions at different altitudes on Mount Terminillo. Moreover, the leaf key traits of the two populations can be used to monitor wild populations over a long term in response to global change.

Additional key words

adaptation leaf anatomy photosynthesis respiration 


A site

1,100 m a.s.l.

B site

1,895 m a.s.l.


soil organic carbon content


mesophyll cell density


dry mass


diameter of the xylematic vessels


transpiration rate


abaxial epidermis thickness


adaxial epidermis thickness


stomatal conductance


height of the central vascular bundle


height of the major lateral vascular bundle


leaf area


leaf mass per unit leaf area


total leaf thickness


leaf tissue density


leaf width


total soil nitrogen content


mean plasticity index


anatomical plasticity index


morphological plasticity index


physiological plasticity index


net photosynthetic rate


respiration rate


relative air humidity


abaxial stomatal area index


adaxial stomatal area index


total surface area of bulliform cells


abaxial stomatal cell density


adaxial stomatal cell density


abaxial stomatal length


adaxial stomatal length


soil organic matter content


soil water content


air temperature


leaf temperature


mean air temperature


mean maximum air temperature


mean minimum air temperature


thickness of the upper sclerenchyma layers


width of central vascular bundle


width of the major lateral vascular bundle


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Copyright information

© The Institute of Experimental Botany 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • L. Gratani
    • 1
  • M. F. Crescente
    • 1
  • V. D’Amato
    • 1
  • C. Ricotta
    • 1
  • A. R. Frattaroli
    • 2
  • G. Puglielli
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Environmental BiologySapienza University of RomeRomeItaly
  2. 2.Department of Life Earth and Environmental ScienceUniversity of L’AquilaL’AquilaItaly

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