Patterns of phenotypic trait variation in two temperate forest herbs along a broad climatic gradient
- 476 Downloads
Phenotypic trait variation plays a major role in the response of plants to global environmental change, particularly in species with low migration capabilities and recruitment success. However, little is known about the variation of functional traits within populations and about differences in this variation on larger spatial scales. In a first approach, we therefore related trait expression to climate and local environmental conditions, studying two temperate forest herbs, Milium effusum and Stachys sylvatica, along a ~1800–2500 km latitudinal gradient. Within each of 9–10 regions in six European countries, we collected data from six populations of each species and recorded several variables in each region (temperature, precipitation) and population (light availability, soil parameters). For each plant, we measured height, leaf area, specific leaf area, seed mass and the number of seeds and examined environmental effects on within-population trait variation as well as on trait means. Most importantly, trait variation differed both between and within populations. Species, however, differed in their response. Intrapopulation variation in Milium was consistently positively affected by higher mean temperatures and precipitation as well as by more fertile local soil conditions, suggesting that more productive conditions may select for larger phenotypic variation. In Stachys, particularly light availability positively influenced trait variation, whereas local soil conditions had no consistent effects. Generally, our study emphasises that intra-population variation may differ considerably across larger scales—due to phenotypic plasticity and/or underlying genetic diversity—possibly affecting species response to global environmental change.
KeywordsClimate change Global environmental change Milium effusum Phenotypic plasticity Intraspecific variation Stachys sylvatica
We are grateful to the Research Foundation − Flanders (FWO) for funding the Scientific Research network ‘FLEUR’ (http://www.fleur.ugent.be). We also thank Marion Ahlbrecht, Vincenzo Gonnelli, Tor Ivar Hansen, Emma Holmström, Astrid Karus, Sigrid Lindmo, Justine Louvel and Antonio Zoccola for field or lab assistance. Climate data of the Estonian sites were provided by courtesy of the Estonian Meteorological and Hydrological Institute. This paper was written while P.D.F. held a post-doctoral fellowship from the FWO.
- Chandler TJ, Gregory S (1976) The climate of the British Isles. Longmans Group, London and New YorkGoogle Scholar
- De Frenne P, Kolb A, Verheyen K, Brunet J, Chabrerie O, Decocq G, Diekmann M, Eriksson O, Heinken T, Hermy M, Jõgar Ü, Stanton S, Quataert P, Zindel R, Zobel M, Graae BJ (2009) Unravelling the effects of temperature, latitude and local environment on the reproduction of forest herbs. Global Ecol Biogeogr 18:641–651CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- De Frenne P, Graae BJ, Kolb A, Shevtsova A, Baeten L, Brunet J, Chabrerie O, Cousins SAO, Decocq G, Dhondt R, Diekmann M, Gruwez R, Heinken T, Hermy M, Öster M, Saguez R, Stanton S, Tack W, Vanhellemont M, Verheyen K (2011) An intraspecific application of the leaf-height-seed ecology strategy scheme to forest herbs along a latitudinal gradient. Ecography 34:132–140CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Graae BJ, Verheyen K, Kolb A, Van Der Veken S, Heinken T, Chabrerie O, Diekmann M, Valtinat K, Zindel R, Karlsson E, Ström L, Decocq G, Hermy M, Baskin CC (2009) Germination requirements and seed mass of slow- and fast-colonizing temperate forest herbs along a latitudinal gradient. Ecoscience 16:248–257CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Grime JP, Crick JC, Rincon JE (1986) The ecological significance of plasticity. In: Jennings DH, Trewavas AJ (eds) Plasticity in plants. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 5–29Google Scholar
- Grime JP, Hodgson JC, Hunt R (1988) Comparative plant ecology. A functional approach to common British species. Unwin Hyman, LondonGoogle Scholar
- Hultén E, Fries M (1986) Atlas of the north European vascular plants: north of the tropic of cancer I–III. Koeltz Scientific Books, KönigsteinGoogle Scholar
- IPCC (2014) Climate Change 2014: Synthesis Report. Contribution of working groups I, II an III to the Fifth Assessment Report. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, GenevaGoogle Scholar
- Pinheiro J, Bates D, DebRoy S, Sarkar D, the R Core Team (2009) nlme: linear and nonlinear mixed effect models. R Package Version 3:1–96Google Scholar
- R Development Core Team (2009) R: A language and environment for statistical computing. R foundation for statistical computing, Vienna (http://www.R-project.org/)
- Walsh C, Mac Nally R (2008) Hier. part: hierarchical partitioning. R package version 1.0-3Google Scholar