, Volume 170, Issue 3, pp 659–667 | Cite as

Quantifying how fine-grained environmental heterogeneity and genetic variation affect demography in an annual plant population

  • Andrew M. LatimerEmail author
  • Brooke S. Jacobs
Population ecology - Original research


The ability of plant species to colonize new habitats and persist in changing environments depends on their ability to respond plastically to environmental variation and on the presence of genetic variation, thus allowing adaptation to new conditions. For invasive species in particular, the relationship between phenotypic trait expression, demography, and the quantitative genetic variation that is available to respond to selection are likely to be important determinants of the successful establishment and persistence of populations. However, the magnitude and sources of individual demographic variation in exotic plant populations remain poorly understood. How important is plasticity versus adaptability in populations of invasive species? Among environmental factors, is temperature, soil nutrients, or competition most influential, and at what scales and life stages do they affect the plants? To investigate these questions we planted seeds of the exotic annual plant Erodium brachycarpum into typical pasture habitat in a spatially nested design. Seeds were drawn from 30 inbred lines to enable quantification of genetic effects. Despite a positive population growth rate, a few plants (0.1 %) produced >50 % of the seeds, suggesting a low effective population size. Emergence and early growth varied by genotype, but as in previous studies on native plants, environmental effects greatly exceeded genetic effects, and survival was unrelated to genotype. Environmental influences shifted from microscale soil compaction and litter depth at emergence through to larger-scale soil nutrient gradients during growth and to competition during later survival and seed production. Temperature had no effect. Most demographic rates were positively correlated, but emergence was negatively correlated with other rates.


Spatial demography Dominance hierarchy Demographic covariance Effective population size Erodium brachycarpum 



We thank Frederik Sagemueller, Jay Sexton, and Kara Moore for helping us plant the experiment, and Kara Moore and Kent Holsinger for commenting on manuscript drafts. Brooke Jacob’s work was supported by The Center for Population Biology at UC Davis, an International Postdoctoral Fellowship from the National Science Foundation, and the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences. The experiment complied with the current laws of the country where it was performed.

Supplementary material

442_2012_2349_MOESM1_ESM.doc (86 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 86 kb)


  1. Antonovics J, Primack RB (1982) Experimental ecological genetics in Plantago: VI. The demography of seedling transplants of P. lanceolata. J Ecol 70:55–75Google Scholar
  2. Bates D, Maechler M (2010) lme4: linear mixed-effects models using S4 classes.
  3. Baythavong BS, Stanton ML (2010) Characterizing selection on phenotypic plasticity in response to natural environmental heterogeneity. Evolution 64:2904–2920PubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Baythavong BS, Stanton ML, Rice KJ (2009) Understanding the consequences of seed dispersal in a heterogeneous environment. Ecology 90:2118–2128PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Beckage B, Clark JS (2003) Seedling survival and growth of three forest tree species: the role of spatial heterogeneity. Ecology 84:1849–1861CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bell G, Lechowicz MJ (1991) The ecology and genetics of fitness in forest plants.1. Environmental heterogeneity measured by explant trials. J Ecol 79:663–685CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Booy G, Hendriks RJJ, Smulders MJM, Van Groenendael JM, Vosman B (2000) Genetic diversity and the survival of populations. Plant Biol 2:379–395CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Burnham KP, Anderson D (2002) Model selection and multimodel inference: a practical information-theoretic approach, 2nd edn. Springer, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  9. Campbell DR (1997) Genetic and environmental variation in life-history traits of a monocarpic perennial: a decade-long field experiment. Evolution 52:373–382CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Chevin LM, Lande R, Mace GM (2010) Adaptation, plasticity, and extinction in a changing environment: towards a predictive theory. PLoS Biol 8:e1000357PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Condit R, Sukumar R, Hubbell SP, Foster RB (1998) Predicting population trends from size distributions: a direct test in a tropical tree community. Am Nat 152:495–509PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Dobrowski SZ (2011) A climatic basis for microrefugia: the influence of terrain on climate. Glob Change Biol 17:1022–1035CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Fiz-Palacios O, Vargas P, Vila R, Papadopulos AS, Aldasoro JJ (2010) The uneven phylogeny and biogeography of Erodium (Geraniaceae): radiations in the Mediterranean and recent recurrent intercontinental colonization. Ann Bot 106:871–884PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gelman A, Hill J (2007) Data analysis using regression and multilevel/hierarchical models. Cambridge University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  15. Grubb PJ (1977) The maintenance of species richness in plant communities: the importance of the regeneration niche. Biol Rev 52:107–145CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Harper JL (1964) The individual in the population. J Anim Ecol 33:149–158CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hartgerink AP, Bazzazz FA (1984) Seedling-scale environmental heterogeneity influences individual fitness and population structure. Ecology 65:198–206CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hoffmann AA, Sgro CM (2011) Climate change and evolutionary adaptation. Nature 470:479–485PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Ibanez I, Clark JS, Dietze MC (2008) Evaluating the sources of potential migrant species: implications under climate change. Ecol Appl 18:1664–1678PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Jacobs BS, Latimer AM (2012) Analyzing reaction norm variation in the field vs. greenhouse: comparing studies of plasticity and its adaptive value in two species of Erodium. Perspect Plant Ecol Evol Syst.
  21. Jongejans E, de Kroon H, Tuljapurkar S, Shea K (2010) Plant populations track rather than buffer climate fluctuations. Ecol Lett 13:736–743PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Lechowicz MJ, Bell G (1991) The ecology and genetics of fitness in forest plants. 2. Microspatial heterogeneity of the edaphic environment. J Ecol 79:687–696Google Scholar
  23. Mazer SJ (1989) Family mean correlations among fitness components in wild radish: controlling for maternal effects on seed weight. Can J Bot 67:1890–1897CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. McMahon SM, Diez JM (2007) Scales of association: hierarchical linear models and the measurement of ecological systems. Ecol Lett 10:437–452PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Mitchell-Olds T (1986) Quantitative genetics of survival and growth in Impatiens capensis. Evolution 40:107–116CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Mousseau TA, Roff DA (1987) Natural selection and the heritability of fitness components. Heredity 59:181–197PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Munz PA, Keck DD (1968) Supplement to “A California flora.” University of California Press, BerkeleyGoogle Scholar
  28. Pinheiro JC, Bates DM (2000) Mixed-effects models in S and S-Plus. Springer, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. R Development Core Team (2011) R: a language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna, Austria.
  30. Rasse D, Rumpel C, Dignac M-F (2005) Is soil carbon mostly root carbon? Mechanisms for a specific stabilisation. Plant Soil 269:341–356CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Rice KJ (1985) Responses of Erodium to varying microsites—the role of germination cueing. Ecology 66:1651–1657CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Rice KJ (1990) Reproductive heirarchies in Erodium—effects of variation in plant-density and rainfall distribution. Ecology 71:1316–1322CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Ross MA, Harper JL (1972) Occupation of biological space during seedling establishment. J Ecol 60:77–88CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Schwaegerle KE, Levin DA (1991) Quantitative genetics of fitness traits in a wild population of Phlox. Evolution 45:165–177Google Scholar
  35. Sexton JP, McKay JK, Sala A (2002) Plasticity and genetic diversity may allow saltcedar to invade cold climates in North America. Ecol Appl 12:1652–1660CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Stratton DA (1992) Life-cycle components of selection in Erigeron annuus. 2. Genetic variation. Evolution 46:107–120CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Stratton DA (1995) Spatial scale of variation in fitness of Erigeron annuus. Am Nat 146:608–624CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Stratton DA, Bennington CC (1998) Fine-grained spatial and temporal variation in selection does not maintain genetic variation in Erigeron annuus. Evolution 52:678–691CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Winn AA (2004) Natural selection, evolvability and bias due to environmental covariance in the field in an annual plant. J Evol Biol 17:1073–1083PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Plant SciencesUniversity of CaliforniaDavisUSA

Personalised recommendations