Does greater specific-leaf-area plasticity help plants to maintain a high performance when shaded?

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The beautiful grassland in Inner Mongolia, China. Photo credit: Yanjie Liu.
The beautiful grassland in Inner Mongolia, China. Photo credit: Yanjie Liu.

Both phenotypic plasticity and local adaptation may allow widely distributed plant species to either acclimate or adapt to environmental heterogeneity. Given the typically low genetic variation of clonal plants across their habitats, phenotypic plasticity may be the primary adaptive strategy allowing them to thrive across a wide range of habitats. In a new study published in AoB PLANTS, Liu et al. used field investigation and controlled experiments to test this hypothesis. They found that plasticity in water use efficiency (reflected by foliar δ13C) is more important than local adaptation in allowing the clonal plant Leymus chinensis to occupy a wide range of habitats.

Reference

Yanjie Liu, Lirong Zhang, Xingliang Xu, Haishan Niu, 2015, 'Understanding the wide geographic range of a clonal perennial grass: plasticity versus local adaptation', AoB PLANTS, vol. 8, p. plv141 http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/aobpla/plv141


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