Evolutionary Ecology

, Volume 33, Issue 5, pp 737–750 | Cite as

Local adaptation is stronger between than within regions in alpine populations of Anthyllis vulneraria

  • Halil Kesselring
  • Elena Hamann
  • Georg F. J. Armbruster
  • Jürg Stöcklin
  • J. F. ScheepensEmail author
Original Paper


Plant populations can be locally adapted and the strength of local adaptation is predicted to increase with increasing environmental distance, e.g. to be larger across than within regions. Meta-analyses comparing reciprocal transplant studies across various taxa confirmed this pattern, whereas single studies including various spatial scales are rare. We transplanted plants among locations of six populations of the herbaceous plant Anthyllis vulneraria in the European Alps. We assessed survival and measured aboveground biomass, reproductive allocation and flowering propensity to test for local adaptation at two spatial scales: within and between two climatically contrasting regions in the Eastern and Western Swiss Alps. Performance of transplanted Anthyllis vulneraria varied between spatial scales. Transplant survival did not show patterns of local adaptation. However, total aboveground biomass, reproductive allocation and flowering propensity were lowest when plants were transplanted to another region, compared with transplantations within regions and to the site of origin. These results indicate local adaptation of populations across regions, but not within regions. Our findings suggest that environmental variation across alpine regions, potentially the contrasting precipitation pattern, is a strong driver of local adaptation. A previous microsatellite study suggested that gene flow is restricted even within populations; therefore, the absence of local adaptation within regions is likely due to weak environmental variation rather than to gene flow counteracting local adaptation.


Alpine plants Anthyllis vulneraria Local adaptation Reciprocal transplantation Spatial scale 



We thank the Schatzalp-Bahn Davos, especially Pius App, for logistic support. Michelle Gisler has provided substantial help with sampling and germinating Anthyllis vulneraria. Constructive comments from the associate editor and anonymous reviewers improved our manuscript. This work was funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation grant no. 3100A-135611 to J.S., and the Freiwillige Akademische Gesellschaft Basel and the Basler Stiftung für biologische Forschung to H.K.

Author contributions

JS, JFS and HK designed the experiment. HK and EH performed the experiment and analysed the data. JFS, EH and HK wrote the manuscript with contributions from the other authors.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

10682_2019_9999_MOESM1_ESM.docx (32 kb)
Figure S1 (A) Total aboveground biomass, (B) reproductive allocation, and (C) flowering propensity of Anthyllis vulneraria at five transplant sites. Bars are ordered within each site by increasing distance of the transplant type from the site (i.e. local, INTRAregional, INTERregional). Error bars depict 1 standard error of the mean. Note different scales of y-axis on all panels. Sites are written in normal face and populations in italic face. Brown shaded bars are used for populations from the Eastern Swiss region, and purple shades for the Western region. Non-flowering plants were disregarded in calculating mean values of reproductive biomass (DOCX 32 kb)
10682_2019_9999_MOESM2_ESM.csv (39 kb)
Table S1 Data on survival of Anthyllis vulneraria at six transplant sites. Columns present plant ID, transplant site, population of origin, transplant type, and whether a plant survived (y) or not (n) till July 2013, September 2013 and September 2014. NA – not available (CSV 38 kb)
10682_2019_9999_MOESM3_ESM.csv (18 kb)
Table S2 Data on biomass and flowering of Anthyllis vulneraria at five transplant sites. Columns present plant ID, transplant site, population of origin, transplant type, reproductive biomass, vegetative biomass, total aboveground biomass, reproductive allocation, and flowering status (0 – not flowering; 1 – flowering). NA – not available. (CSV 17 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Botany, Department of Environmental SciencesUniversity of BaselBaselSwitzerland
  2. 2.Department of Biological SciencesFordham UniversityBronxUSA
  3. 3.Plant Evolutionary Ecology, Institute of Evolution and EcologyUniversity of TübingenTübingenGermany

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