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Genotypic variation in traits linked to climate and aboveground productivity in a widespread C4 grass: Evidence for a functional trait syndrome

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  • Michael J. Aspinwall
  • David B. Lowry
  • Samuel H. Taylor
  • Thomas E. Juenger
  • Christine V. Hawkes
  • Mari Vaughn V Johnson
  • James R. Kiniry
  • Philip A. Fay
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>09/2013
<mark>Journal</mark>New Phytologist
Issue number4
Number of pages15
Pages (from-to)966-980
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Examining intraspecific variation in growth and function in relation to climate may provide insight into physiological evolution and adaptation, and is important for predicting species responses to climate change. Under common garden conditions, we grew nine genotypes of the C4 species Panicum virgatum originating from different temperature and precipitation environments. We hypothesized that genotype productivity, morphology and physiological traits would be correlated with climate of origin, and a suite of adaptive traits would show high broad-sense heritability (H2). Genotype productivity and flowering time increased and decreased, respectively, with home-climate temperature, and home-climate temperature was correlated with genotypic differences in a syndrome of morphological and physiological traits. Genotype leaf and tiller size, leaf lamina thickness, leaf mass per area (LMA) and C : N ratios increased with home-climate temperature, whereas leaf nitrogen per unit mass (Nm) and chlorophyll (Chl) decreased with home-climate temperature. Trait variation was largely explained by genotypic differences (H2 = 0.33-0.85). Our results provide new insight into the role of climate in driving functional trait coordination, local adaptation and genetic divergence within species. These results emphasize the importance of considering intraspecific variation in future climate change scenarios.