Alpine Botany

, Volume 128, Issue 1, pp 59–69 | Cite as

Phenotypic and reproductive responses of an Andean violet to environmental variation across an elevational gradient

  • J. Seguí
  • A. Lázaro
  • A. Traveset
  • C. Salgado-Luarte
  • E. Gianoli
Original Article


Environmental gradients in alpine systems may lead to differences in both abiotic conditions and species interactions in very short distances. This may lead to reproductive and phenotypic changes in plants to enhance fitness in each environment. In this study, we explored how the Central Andean Viola maculata responds to the elevation gradient, where it is distributed, with an expected increase in water availability and a decrease in pollinator availability with elevation. We hypothesized that: (1) plants would be more water-stressed at low elevations; (2) investment in and success of cleistogamous flowers (closed, self-pollinated) would increase with elevation; and (3) correlation patterns between floral and vegetative traits would vary along the gradient according to changes in biotic/abiotic selection pressures across sites. We partially confirmed the inverse gradient of water stress with elevation, with V. maculata populations in the lowest site experiencing lower soil moisture and showing thicker leaves and lower stomatal conductance. Cleistogamy was more prevalent and successful at the highest site, thus confirming the hypothesis of maintenance of a mixed-mating system as reproductive assurance. Correlation patterns between flower and leaf size differed across sites, with stronger vegetative–floral correlation at the lower sites and a weak correlation at the highest site. This finding disagrees with the notion of pollinators as drivers of correlation between floral and vegetative traits. Our study shows how a narrow gradient in an alpine system may affect not only reproductive and physiological responses in plants, but also floral and vegetative covariances.


Cleistogamy Correlation pleiades Drought Floral–vegetative correlation Phenotypic integration Viola maculata 



The work was supported by a pre-doc fellowship from the Balearic Island Government (FPI/1509/2012), co-financed by the European Social Fund (ESF). Funding was provided by the International Laboratory of Global Change (LINCGlobal) and by the Ibero-American Young Research’s grants (Santander). We thank Fernando Valladares, for his valuable support for the study to go forward, and Fernanda Pérez, Iñaki Azua, Isidora Sepulveda, Alejandro Dias, and Patricio Andes Valenzuela for their valuable support in the field. Thanks to Yulinka Alcayaga and Mónica Cisternas for their valuable support processing data in the lab. We also thank the staff at National Reserve Altos de Lircay for their help in the field.

Author Contributions

JS and EG conceived and designed the project. JS and CSL collected the data. JS and AL analyzed the data. JS, EG, AT and AL wrote the manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

35_2017_195_MOESM1_ESM.tif (27.2 mb)
Images of the habitat and co-occurring plant species at each site. Viola maculata co-occurs mainly by Chusquea coleou and Festuca pallescens at 1950 m, with Mulinum echinus and Berberis empetrifolia at 2200 m, and with Festuca pallescens and Berberis empetrifolia at 2350 m (TIF 27902 KB)
35_2017_195_MOESM2_ESM.tif (125 kb)
Phenology recorded between December 27th and December 29th 2014. Bars represent the percentage of floral buds, opened flowers, developing fruits, and fruits present in each population in those dates (TIF 125 KB)
35_2017_195_MOESM3_ESM.tif (402 kb)
Schematic drawing of a Viola maculata leaf and associated CH flower, illustrating the different plant traits examined in this study (TIF 401 KB)
35_2017_195_MOESM4_ESM.tif (575 kb)
Relationship between fruit set and proportion of chasmogamous flowers per ramet at each study site (TIF 574 KB)
35_2017_195_MOESM5_ESM.docx (16 kb)
Supplementary material 5 (DOCX 16 KB)


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Copyright information

© Swiss Botanical Society 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. Seguí
    • 1
  • A. Lázaro
    • 1
  • A. Traveset
    • 1
  • C. Salgado-Luarte
    • 2
  • E. Gianoli
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Global Change Research GroupMediterranean Institute for Advanced Studies (CSIC-UIB)Balearic IslandsSpain
  2. 2.Departamento de BiologíaUniversidad de La SerenaLa SerenaChile
  3. 3.Departamento de BotánicaUniversidad de ConcepciónConcepciónChile

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