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Phenotypic plasticity in reproductive traits of the perennial shrub Ulex europaeus in response to shading: A multi-year monitoring of cultivated clones

Abstract : Phenotypic plasticity may be advantageous for plants to be able to rapidly cope with new and changing environments associated with climate change or during biological invasions. This is especially true for perennial plants, as they may need a longer period to respond genetically to selective pressures than annuals, and also because they are more likely to experience environmental changes during their lifespan. However, few studies have explored the plasticity of the reproductive life history traits of woody perennial species. This study focuses on a woody shrub, Ulex europaeus (common gorse), and on the response of its reproductive traits to one important environmental factor, shading. The study was performed on clones originating from western France (within the native range of this invasive species) and grown for seven years. We compared traits of plants grown in a shade treatment (with two successive shade levels) vs. full natural light. The traits monitored included flowering onset, pod production and seed predation. All traits studied responded to shading, exhibiting various levels of plasticity. In particular, dense shade induced a radical but reversible decrease in flower and pod production, while moderate shade had little effect on reproductive traits. The magnitude of the response to dense shade depended on the genotype, showing a genetically based polymorphism of plasticity. The level of plasticity also showed substantial variations between years, and the effect of environmental variations was cumulative over time. This suggests that plasticity can influence the lifetime fitness of U. Europaeus and is involved in the capacity of the species to grow under contrasting environmental conditions.
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Submitted on : Thursday, October 29, 2015 - 4:27:00 PM
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Anne Atlan, Benjamin Hornoy, Florian Delerue, Maya Gonzalez, Jean-Sébastien Pierre, et al.. Phenotypic plasticity in reproductive traits of the perennial shrub Ulex europaeus in response to shading: A multi-year monitoring of cultivated clones. PLoS ONE, Public Library of Science, 2015, 10 (9), pp.e0137500. ⟨10.1371/journal.pone.0137500⟩. ⟨hal-01222311⟩

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