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Abilities of Tropical Montane Plants to Cope with Global Warming

Paper Reviewed
Ensslin, A. and Fischer, M. 2015. Variation in life-history traits and their plasticities to elevational transplantation among seed families suggests potential for adaptive evolution of 15 tropical plant species to climate change. American Journal of Botany 102: 1371-1379.

Ensslin and Fischer (2015) studied how plants respond to transplantation to different elevations on Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, in order to determine whether there is sufficient quantitative genetic (among-seed family) variation in, and selection on, life-history traits and their phenotypic plasticity, which they did by reciprocally transplanting seed families of 15 common tropical herbaceous species of the montane and savanna vegetation zones of Mt. Kilimanjaro to watered experimental gardens in the montane (1450-meter) and the savanna (880-meter) zones and then measured the different species performance, reproduction and some of their phenological traits.

This work revealed, in the words of the two researchers, that (1) "seed families within species responded differently to warming," suggesting that (2) "some genotypes may persist," and that (3) "species may subsequently adapt to warming." In addition, they say that they (4) "found genetic variation in all trait means and in some trait plasticities to transplantation," which is (5) "the prerequisite for adaptive evolution of traits and of plasticities to changes in environmental conditions." And they also reported that (6) "because selection on the measured traits did not change between gardens, it appears that the adaptive potential of these species will not be compromised by high temperatures."

Consequently, and in light of their several welcome findings, Ensslin and Fischer's concluding words on the subject were that (7) "evolutionary adaptation seems a probable scenario for most of the studied common species and [8] might alleviate the negative responses to warming."

Posted 16 December 2015