Plant Ecology

, Volume 200, Issue 2, pp 167–177

Interactions between mountain birch seedlings from differentiated populations in contrasting environments of subarctic Russia



So far very few experiments have accounted for the combined effect of two phenomena co-occurring in stress gradients: local adaptation to stress and the increase in facilitation with increasing stress (predicted by the stress-gradient hypothesis, SGH). Mountain birch (Betula pubescens subsp. czerepanovii) facilitates conspecific seedlings in subarctic high stress sites and is capable of rapid evolutionary adaptation, being therefore a good model species for a study combining local ecotypes and SGH. A within-species experiment was conducted to test SGH in three stress gradients, detect potential local adaptations between low and high stress populations, and assess their effects on seedling-seedling interactions. Although no evidence for local adaptation was detected, high and low stress populations showed some differentiation, possibly explained by decreasing phenotypic plasticity in high stress conditions and/or neutral evolutionary mechanisms. Weak support for SGH was detected. While facilitation was unaffected by seedling origin, low stress populations showed better competitive ability.


Stress-gradient hypothesis Local adaptation Competition Facilitation Betula pubescens Phenotypic plasticity 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Section of Ecology, Department of BiologyUniversity of TurkuTurkuFinland

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