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Variation in plant thermal reaction norms along a latitudinal gradient – more than adaptation to season length

Toftegaard, Tenna, Posledovich, Diana, Navarro‐Cano, José A., Wiklund, Christer, Gotthard, Karl, Ehrlén, Johan
Oikos 2016 v.125 no.5 pp. 622-628
Brassicaceae, flowering, global warming, growing season, herbivores, phenotypic plasticity, temperature
Little is known about the extent to which observed phenological responses to changes in climate are the result of phenotypic plasticity or genetic changes. We also know little about how plasticity, in terms of thermal reaction norms, vary spatially. We investigated if the thermal reaction norms for flower development of five crucifer species (Brassicaceae) differed among three regions along a south–north latitudinal gradient in replicated experiments. The mean response (elevation) of thermal reaction norms of flowering differed among regions in all study species, while sensitivity of flower development to temperature (slope) differed in only one of the species. Differences in mean responses corresponded to cogradient patterns in some species, but countergradient patterns in other. This suggests that differences among regions were not solely the result of adaptation to differences in the length of the growing season, but that other factors, such as herbivory, play an important role. Differences in development rate within species were mainly explained by variation in early phases of bud formation in some species but by variation in later phases of bud formation in other species. The differences in latitudinal patterns of thermal reaction norms among species observed in this study are important, both to identify agents of selection and to predict short‐ and long‐term responses to a warming climate.