Ecological and evolutionary responses of an arctic plant to variation in microclimate and soil

Tidsskriftartikel - 2021


The arctic and alpine regions are predicted to experience some of the highest rates of climate change, and the arctic vegetation is expected to be especially sensitive to such changes. Understanding the ecological and evolutionary responses of arctic plant species to changes in climate is therefore a key objective. Geothermal areas, where natural temperature gradients occur over small spatial scales, and without many of the confounding environmental factors present in latitudinal and other gradient studies, provide a natural experimental setting in which to examine the response of arctic?alpine plants to increasing temperatures. To test the ecological and evolutionary response of the circumpolar alpine bistort Persicaria vivipara to temperature, we collected plant material and soil from areas with low, intermediate and high soil temperatures and grew them at three different temperatures in a three-factorial growth chamber experiment. At higher experimental soil temperatures, sprouting was earlier and plants had more leaves. Sprouting was earlier in soil originating from intermediate temperature and plants had more leaves when grown in soil originating from low temperatures. We did not find evidence of local adaptation or genetic variation in reaction norms among plants originating from areas with low, intermediate and high soil temperature. Our findings suggest that the alpine bistort has a strong plastic response to warming, but that differences in soil temperature have not resulted in genetic differentiation. The lack of an observed evolutionary response may, for example, be due to the absence of temperature-mediated selection on P. vivipara, the low rate of sexual recombination, or high levels of gene flow balancing differences in selection. When placed within the context of other studies, we conclude that arctic?alpine plant species often show strong plastic responses to spring warming, while evidence of evolutionary responses varies among species.


Wickander NJ, Rasmussen PU, Marteinsdóttir B, Ehrlén J, Tack AJM. Ecological and evolutionary responses of an arctic plant to variation in microclimate and soil. Oikos 2021;130(2):211-218.
doi: 10.1111/oik.07794

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