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Genotypic variation in phenological plasticity: Reciprocal common gardens reveal adaptive responses to warmer springs but not to fall frost
- Cooper, Hillary F., Grady, Kevin C., Cowan, Jacob A., Best, Rebecca J., Allan, Gerard J., Whitham, Thomas G.
- Global change biology 2019 v.25 no.1 pp. 187-200
- Populus fremontii, bud set, climate, climate change, freezing, frost, gardens, genetic variation, genotype, heat, mortality, phenology, phenotype, phenotypic plasticity, photoperiod, provenance, spring, temperature, trees
- Species faced with rapidly shifting environments must be able to move, adapt, or acclimate in order to survive. One mechanism to meet this challenge is phenotypic plasticity: altering phenotype in response to environmental change. Here, we investigated the magnitude, direction, and consequences of changes in two key phenology traits (fall bud set and spring bud flush) in a widespread riparian tree species, Populus fremontii. Using replicated genotypes from 16 populations from throughout the species’ thermal range, and reciprocal common gardens at hot, warm, and cool sites, we identified four major findings: (a) There are significant genetic (G), environmental (E), and GxE components of variation for both traits across three common gardens; (b) The magnitude of phenotypic plasticity is correlated with provenance climate, where trees from hotter, southern populations exhibited up to four times greater plasticity compared to the northern, frost‐adapted populations; (c) Phenological mismatches are correlated with higher mortality as the transfer distances between provenance and garden increase; and (d) The relationship between plasticity and survival depends not only on the magnitude and direction of environmental transfer, but also on the type of environmental stress (i.e., heat or freezing), and how particular traits have evolved in response to that stress. Trees transferred to warmer climates generally showed small to moderate shifts in an adaptive direction, a hopeful result for climate change. Trees experiencing cooler climates exhibited large, non‐adaptive changes, suggesting smaller transfer distances for assisted migration. This study is especially important as it deconstructs trait responses to environmental cues that are rapidly changing (e.g., temperature and spring onset) and those that are fixed (photoperiod), and that vary across the species’ range. Understanding the magnitude and adaptive nature of phenotypic plasticity of multiple traits responding to multiple environmental cues is key to guiding restoration management decisions as climate continues to change.