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How Local Adaptation Can Help Plants Cope with Climate Change

Paper Reviewed
Lazaro-Nogal, A., Matesanz, S., Hallik, L., Krasnova, A., Traveset, A. and Valladares, F. 2016. Population differentiation in a Mediterranean relict shrub: the potential role of local adaptation for coping with climate change. Oecologia 180: 1075-1090.

In the words of Lazaro-Nogal et al. (2016), "plants can respond to climate change by either [1] migrating, [2] adapting to the new conditions or [3] going extinct." And in further exploring this subject as it pertains to Cneorum tricoccon -- a Mediterranean relict shrub of limited distribution -- they measured various morphological and physiological traits of the plant in both field and greenhouse conditions under three different levels of water availability.

This work revealed, as the six scientists report, that dry-edge populations exhibit functional traits that favor drought tolerance, such as having more sclerophyllous leaves, strong stomatal control, high photosynthetic rates, increased water use efficiency, plus an enhanced ability to accumulate sugars as osmolytes. And since these dry-edge populations may preserve rare alleles and gene combinations that are important for adaptation to extreme environmental conditions, as described by Hampe and Petit (2005), they go on to speculate that "dry-edge populations could counteract the habitat loss expected under climate change."

Hampe, A. and Petit, R.J. 2005. Conserving biodiversity under climate change: the rear edge matters. Ecology Letters 8: 461-467.

Posted 6 September 2016