To identify the ecological and genetic mechanisms of local adaptation requires estimating selection on traits, identifying their genetic basis, and evaluating whether divergence in adaptive traits is due to conditional neutrality or genetic trade-offs. To this end, we conducted field experiments for three years using recombinant inbred lines (RILs) derived from two ecotypes of Arabidopsis thaliana (Italy, Sweden), and at each parental site examined selection on flowering time and mapped quantitative trait loci (QTL). There was strong selection for early flowering in Italy, but weak selection in Sweden. Eleven distinct flowering time QTL were detected, and for each the Italian genotype caused earlier flowering. Twenty-seven candidate genes were identified, two of which (FLC and VIN3) appear under major flowering time QTL in Italy. Seven of eight QTL in Italy with narrow credible intervals colocalized with previously reported fitness QTL, in comparison to three of four in Sweden. The results demonstrate that the magnitude of selection on flowering time differs strikingly between our study populations, that the genetic basis of flowering time variation is multigenic with some QTL of large effect, and suggest that divergence in flowering time between ecotypes is due mainly to conditional neutrality.
Here, we review the current genetic approaches for grass improvement and their potential for the enhanced breeding of new varieties appropriate for a sustainable agriculture in a changing global climate. These generally out-breeding, perennial, self-incompatible species present unique challenges and opportunities for genetic analysis. We emphasise their distinctiveness from model species and from the in-breeding, annual cereals. We describe the modern genetic approaches appropriate for their analysis, including association mapping. Sustainability traits discussed here include stress resistance (drought, cold and pathogeneses) and favourable agronomic characters (nutrient use efficiency, carbohydrate content, fatty acid content, winter survival, flowering time and biomass yield). Global warming will predictably affect temperature-sensitive traits such as vernalisation, and these traits are under investigation. Grass biomass utilisation for carbon-neutral energy generation may contribute to reduced atmospheric carbon emissions. Because the wider potential outcomes of climate change are unpredictable, breeders must be reactive to events and have a range of well-characterised germplasm available for new applications.
The timing of life history traits is central to lifetime fitness and nowhere is this more evident or well studied as in the phenology of flowering in governing plant reproductive success. Recent changes in the timing of environmental events attributable to climate change, such as the date of snowmelt at high altitudes, which initiates the growing season, have had important repercussions for some common perennial herbaceous wildflower species. The phenology of flowering at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory (Colorado, USA) is strongly influenced by date of snowmelt, which makes this site ideal for examining phenological responses to climate change. Flower buds of Delphinium barbeyi, Erigeron speciosus, and Helianthella quinquenervis are sensitive to frost, and the earlier beginning of the growing season in recent years has exposed them to more frequent mid-June frost kills. From 1992 to 1998, on average 36.1% of Helianthella buds were frosted, but for 1999-2006 the mean is 73.9%; in only one year since 1998 have plants escaped all frost damage. For all three of these perennial species, there is a significant relationship between the date of snowmelt and the abundance of flowering that summer. Greater snowpack results in later snowmelt, later beginning of the growing season, and less frost mortality of buds. Microhabitat differences in snow accumulation, snowmelt patterns, and cold air drainage during frost events can be significant; an elevation difference of only 12 m between two plots resulted in a temperature difference of almost 2 degrees C in 2006 and a difference of 37% in frost damage to buds. The loss of flowers and therefore seeds can reduce recruitment in these plant populations, and affect pollinators, herbivores, and seed predators that previously relied on them. Other plant species in this environment are similarly susceptible to frost damage so the negative effects for recruitment and for consumers dependent on flowers and seeds could be widespread. These findings point out the paradox of increased frost damage in the face of global warming, provide important insights into the adaptive significance of phenology, and have general implications for flowering plants throughout the region and anywhere climate change is having similar impacts.
Herbivory can negatively affect several components of plant reproduction. Yet, because of a lack of experimental studies involving multiple populations, the extent to which differences in herbivory contribute to among-population variation in plant reproductive success is poorly known. We experimentally determined the effects of insect herbivory on reproductive output in nine natural populations of the perennial herb Lythrum salicaria along a disturbance gradient in an archipelago in northern Sweden, and we quantified among-population differentiation in resistance to herbivory in a common-garden experiment in the same area. The intensity of leaf herbivory varied >500-fold and mean female reproductive success >400-fold among the study populations. The intensity of herbivory was lowest in populations subject to strong disturbance from ice and wave action. Experimental removal of insect herbivores showed that the effect of herbivory on female reproductive success was correlated with the intensity of herbivory and that differences in insect herbivory could explain much of the among-population variation in the proportion of plants flowering and seed production. Population differentiation in resistance to herbivory was limited. The results demonstrate that the intensity of herbivory is a major determinant of flowering and seed output in L. salicaria, but that differences in herbivory are not associated with differences in plant resistance at the spatial scale examined. They further suggest that the physical disturbance regime may strongly influence the performance and abundance of perennial herbs and patterns of selection not only because of its effect on interspecific competition, but also because of effects on interactions with specialized herbivores.
Climate warming affects the phenology, local abundance and large-scale distribution of plants and pollinators. Despite this, there is still limited knowledge of how elevated temperatures affect plant-pollinator mutualisms and how changed availability of mutualistic partners influences the persistence of interacting species. Here we review the evidence of climate warming effects on plants and pollinators and discuss how their interactions may be affected by increased temperatures. The onset of flowering in plants and first appearance dates of pollinators in several cases appear to advance linearly in response to recent temperature increases. Phenological responses to climate warming may therefore occur at parallel magnitudes in plants and pollinators, although considerable variation in responses across species should be expected. Despite the overall similarities in responses, a few studies have shown that climate warming may generate temporal mismatches among the mutualistic partners. Mismatches in pollination interactions are still rarely explored and their demographic consequences are largely unknown. Studies on multi-species plant-pollinator assemblages indicate that the overall structure of pollination networks probably are robust against perturbations caused by climate warming. We suggest potential ways of studying warming-caused mismatches and their consequences for plant-pollinator interactions, and highlight the strengths and limitations of such approaches.
Under global warming, the survival of many populations of sedentary organisms in seasonal environments will largely depend on their ability to cope with warming in situ by means of phenotypic plasticity or adaptive evolution. This is particularly true in high-latitude environments, where current growing seasons are short, and expected temperature increases large. In such short-growing season environments, the timing of growth and reproduction is critical to survival. Here, we use the unique setting provided by a natural geothermal soil warming gradient (Hengill geothermal area, Iceland) to study the response of Cerastium fontanum flowering phenology to temperature. We hypothesized that trait expression and phenotypic selection on flowering phenology are related to soil temperature, and tested the hypothesis that temperature-driven differences in selection on phenology have resulted in genetic differentiation using a common garden experiment. In the field, phenology was related to soil temperature, with plants in warmer microsites flowering earlier than plants at colder microsites. In the common garden, plants responded to spring warming in a counter-gradient fashion; plants originating from warmer microsites flowered relatively later than those originating from colder microsites. A likely explanation for this pattern is that plants from colder microsites have been selected to compensate for the shorter growing season by starting development at lower temperatures. However, in our study we did not find evidence of variation in phenotypic selection on phenology in relation to temperature, but selection consistently favoured early flowering. Our results show that soil temperature influences trait expression and suggest the existence of genetically based variation in flowering phenology leading to counter-gradient local adaptation along a gradient of soil temperatures. An important implication of our results is that observed phenotypic responses of phenology to global warming might often be a combination of short-term plastic responses and long-term evolutionary responses, acting in different directions.
Ontogenic or age-related resistance has been noted in many pathosystems but is less often quantified or expressed in a manner that allows the concept to be applied in disease management programs. Preliminary studies indicated that leaves and fruit of three strawberry cultivars rapidly acquired ontogenic resistance to the powdery mildew pathogen, Podosphaera aphanis. In the present study, we quantify the development of ontogenic resistance in controlled inoculations of 10 strawberry cultivars using diverse isolates of P. aphanis in New York and Florida, USA, and in Norway. We report the differential and organ-specific development of ontogenic resistance in the receptacle and externally borne strawberry achenes. We further report that rapid development of ontogenic resistance prior to unfolding of emergent leaves, rather than differential susceptibility of adaxial versus abaxial leaf surfaces, may explain the commonly observed predominance of powdery mildew on the lower leaf surfaces. Susceptibility of leaves and fruit declined exponentially with age. Receptacle tissue of berries inoculated at four phenological stages from bloom to ripe fruit became nearly immune to infection approximately 10 to 15 days after bloom, as fruit transitioned from the early green to the late green or early white stage of berry development, although the achenes remained susceptible for a longer period. Leaves also acquired ontogenic resistance early in their development, and they were highly resistant shortly after unfolding and before the upper surface was fully exposed. No significant difference was found in the susceptibility of the adaxial versus abaxial surfaces. The rapid acquisition of ontogenic resistance by leaves and fruit revealed a narrow window of susceptibility to which management programs might be advantageously adapted.
Europe is traditionally the largest producer of floricultural products in the world with an estimated production value of over 12 billion euro in 2006. The Netherlands, Italy, Germany, Spain, United Kingdom and France are the main centres of production. More recently, a significant growth in production area was observed in Poland also. The Dutch auctions remain the world's largest trading system for flowers and plants. Looking at the intra-European trade, Belgium and Denmark are also major exporting countries. The consumption of floricultural products increased strongly within Europe during the last years. Especially, Eastern Europe has a big potential as a new market. In these countries, the demand for ornamentals will increase due to the rise of income and the level of prosperity. In spite of the positive developments in consumption and production, increasing energy costs, growing environmental concern and globalisation of production, trade and markets will form the major challenges European floricultural industry has to deal with in the near future.
Although empirical and theoretical studies suggest that climate influences the timing of life-history events in animals and plants, correlations between climate and the timing of events such as egg-laying, migration or flowering do not reveal the mechanisms by which natural selection operates on life-history events. We present a general autoregressive model of the timing of life-history events in relation to variation in global climate that, like autoregressive models of population dynamics, allows for a more mechanistic understanding of the roles of climate, resources and competition. We applied the model to data on 50 years of annual dates of first flowering by three species of plants in 26 populations covering 4 degrees of latitude in Norway. In agreement with earlier studies, plants in most populations and all three species bloomed earlier following warmer winters. Moreover, our model revealed that earlier blooming reflected increasing influences of resources and density-dependent population limitation under climatic warming. The insights available from the application of this model to phenological data in other taxa will contribute to our understanding of the roles of endogenous versus exogenous processes in the evolution of the timing of life-history events in a changing climate.