Intraspecific variation of a dominant grass and local adaptation in reciprocal garden communities along a US Great Plains' precipitation gradient: implications for grassland restoration with climate change.
ABSTRACT: Identifying suitable genetic stock for restoration often employs a 'best guess' approach. Without adaptive variation studies, restoration may be misguided. We test the extent to which climate in central US grasslands exerts selection pressure on a foundation grass big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii), widely used in restorations, and resulting in local adaptation. We seeded three regional ecotypes of A. gerardii in reciprocal transplant garden communities across 1150 km precipitation gradient. We measured ecological responses over several timescales (instantaneous gas exchange, medium-term chlorophyll absorbance, and long-term responses of establishment and cover) in response to climate and biotic factors and tested if ecotypes could expand range. The ecotype from the driest region exhibited greatest cover under low rainfall, suggesting local adaptation under abiotic stress. Unexpectedly, no evidence for cover differences between ecotypes exists at mesic sites where establishment and cover of all ecotypes were low, perhaps due to strong biotic pressures. Expression of adaptive differences is strongly environment specific. Given observed adaptive variation, the most conservative restoration strategy would be to plant the local ecotype, especially in drier locations. With superior performance of the most xeric ecotype under dry conditions and predicted drought, this ecotype may migrate eastward, naturally or with assistance in restorations.
Project description:Abstract Plant response to climate depends on a species’ adaptive potential. To address this, we used reciprocal gardens to detect genetic and environmental plasticity effects on phenotypic variation and combined with genetic analyses. Four reciprocal garden sites were planted with three regional ecotypes of Andropogon gerardii, a dominant Great Plains prairie grass, using dry, mesic, and wet ecotypes originating from western KS to Illinois that span 500–1,200 mm rainfall/year. We aimed to answer: (a) What is the relative role of genetic constraints and phenotypic plasticity in controlling phenotypes? (b) When planted in the homesite, is there a trait syndrome for each ecotype? (c) How are genotypes and phenotypes structured by climate? and (d) What are implications of these results for response to climate change and use of ecotypes for restoration? Surprisingly, we did not detect consistent local adaptation. Rather, we detected co?gradient variation primarily for most vegetative responses. All ecotypes were stunted in western KS. Eastward, the wet ecotype was increasingly robust relative to other ecotypes. In contrast, fitness showed evidence for local adaptation in wet and dry ecotypes with wet and mesic ecotypes producing little seed in western KS. Earlier flowering time in the dry ecotype suggests adaptation to end of season drought. Considering ecotype traits in homesite, the dry ecotype was characterized by reduced canopy area and diameter, short plants, and low vegetative biomass and putatively adapted to water limitation. The wet ecotype was robust, tall with high biomass, and wide leaves putatively adapted for the highly competitive, light?limited Eastern Great Plains. Ecotype differentiation was supported by random forest classification and PCA. We detected genetic differentiation and outlier genes associated with primarily precipitation. We identified candidate gene GA1 for which allele frequency associated with plant height. Sourcing of climate adapted ecotypes should be considered for restoration.
Project description:Genetic principles underlie recommendations to use local seed, but a paucity of information exists on the genetic distinction and ecological consequences of using different seed sources in restorations. We established a field experiment to test whether cultivars and local ecotypes of dominant prairie grasses were genetically distinct and differentially influenced ecosystem functioning. Whole plots were assigned to cultivar and local ecotype grass sources. Three subplots within each whole plot were seeded to unique pools of subordinate species. The cultivar of the increasingly dominant grass, Sorghastrum nutans, was genetically different than the local ecotype, but genetic diversity was similar between the two sources. There were no differences in aboveground net primary production, soil carbon accrual, and net nitrogen mineralization rate in soil between the grass sources. Comparable productivity of the grass sources among the species pools for four years shows functional equivalence in terms of biomass production. Subordinate species comprised over half the aboveground productivity, which may have diluted the potential for documented trait differences between the grass sources to influence ecosystem processes. Regionally developed cultivars may be a suitable alternative to local ecotypes for restoration in fragmented landscapes with limited gene flow between natural and restored prairie and negligible recruitment by seed.
Project description:Symbioses may be important mechanisms of plant adaptation to their environment. We conducted a reciprocal inoculation experiment to test the hypothesis that soil fertility is a key driver of local adaptation in arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) symbioses. Ecotypes of Andropogon gerardii from phosphorus-limited and nitrogen-limited grasslands were grown with all possible "home and away" combinations of soils and AM fungal communities. Our results indicate that Andropogon ecotypes adapt to their local soil and indigenous AM fungal communities such that mycorrhizal exchange of the most limiting resource is maximized. Grasses grown in home soil and inoculated with home AM fungi produced more arbuscules (symbiotic exchange structures) in their roots than those grown in away combinations. Also, regardless of the host ecotype, AM fungi produced more extraradical hyphae in their home soil, and locally adapted AM fungi were, therefore, able to sequester more carbon compared with nonlocal fungi. Locally adapted mycorrhizal associations were more mutualistic in the two phosphorus-limited sites and less parasitic at the nitrogen-limited site compared with novel combinations of plants, fungi, and soils. To our knowledge, these findings provide the strongest evidence to date that resource availability generates evolved geographic structure in symbioses among plants and soil organisms. Thus, edaphic origin of AM fungi should be considered when managing for their benefits in agriculture, ecosystem restoration, and soil-carbon sequestration.
Project description:Predicting how plants will respond to global warming necessitates understanding of local plant adaptation to temperature. Temperature may exert selective effects on plants directly, and also indirectly through environmental factors that covary with temperature, notably soil properties. However, studies on the interactive effects of temperature and soil properties on plant adaptation are rare, and the role of abiotic versus biotic soil properties in plant adaptation to temperature remains untested. We performed two growth chamber experiments using soils and Bistorta vivipara bulbil ecotypes from a subarctic elevational gradient (temperature range: ±3(°)C) in northern Sweden to disentangle effects of local ecotype, temperature, and biotic and abiotic properties of soil origin on plant growth. We found partial evidence for local adaption to temperature. Although soil origin affected plant growth, we did not find support for local adaptation to either abiotic or biotic soil properties, and there were no interactive effects of soil origin with ecotype or temperature. Our results indicate that ecotypic variation can be an important driver of plant responses to the direct effects of increasing temperature, while responses to covariation in soil properties are of a phenotypic, rather than adaptive, nature.
Project description:Elytrigia atherica is a native invasive plant species whose expansion on salt marshes is attributed to genotypic and phenotypic adaptations to non-ideal environmental conditions, forming two ecotypes. It is unknown how E. atherica-microbiome interactions are contributing to its adaptation. Here we investigated the effect of sea-water flooding frequency and associated soil (a)biotic conditions on plant traits and root-associated microbial community composition and potential functions of two E. atherica ecotypes. We observed higher endomycorrhizal colonization in high-elevation ecotypes (HE, low inundation frequency), whereas low-elevation ecotypes (LE, high inundation frequency) had higher specific leaf area. Similarly, rhizosphere and endosphere bacterial communities grouped according to ecotypes. Soil ammonium content and elevation explained rhizosphere bacterial composition. Around 60% the endosphere amplicon sequence variants (ASVs) were also found in soil and around 30% of the ASVs were ecotype-specific. The endosphere of HE-ecotype harbored more unique sequences than the LE-ecotype, the latter being abundant in halophylic bacterial species. The composition of the endosphere may explain salinity and drought tolerance in relation to the local environmental needs of each ecotype. Overall, these results suggest that E. atherica is flexible in its association with soil bacteria and ecotype-specific dissimilar, which may enhance its competitive strength in salt marshes.
Project description:Experimental tests of community assembly mechanisms for host-associated microbiomes in nature are lacking. Asymptomatic foliar fungal endophytes are a major component of the plant microbiome and are increasingly recognized for their impacts on plant performance, including pathogen defense, hormonal manipulation, and drought tolerance. However, it remains unclear whether fungal endophytes preferentially colonize certain host ecotypes or genotypes, reflecting some degree of biotic adaptation in the symbioses, or whether colonization is simply a function of spore type and abundance within the local environment. Whether host ecotype, local environment, or some combination of both controls the pattern of microbiome formation across hosts represents a new dimension to the age-old debate of nature versus nurture. Here, we used a reciprocal transplant design to explore the extent of host specificity and biotic adaptation in the plant microbiome, as evidenced by differential colonization of host genetic types by endophytes. Specifically, replicate plants from three locally-adapted ecotypes of the native grass Panicum virgatum (switchgrass) were transplanted at three geographically distinct field sites (one home and two away) in the Midwestern US. At the end of the growing season, plant leaves were harvested and the fungal microbiome characterized using culture-dependent sequencing techniques. Our results demonstrated that fungal endophyte community structure was determined by local environment (i.e., site), but not by host ecotype. Fungal richness and diversity also strongly differed by site, with lower fungal diversity at a riparian field site, whereas host ecotype had no effect. By contrast, there were significant differences in plant phenotypes across all ecotypes and sites, indicating ecotypic differentiation of host phenotype. Overall, our results indicate that environmental factors are the primary drivers of community structure in the switchgrass fungal microbiome.
Project description:PREMISE:Despite myriad examples of local adaptation, the phenotypes and genetic variants underlying such adaptive differentiation are seldom known. Recent work on freezing tolerance and local adaptation in ecotypes of Arabidopsis thaliana from Italy and Sweden provides an essential foundation for uncovering the genotype-phenotype-fitness map for an adaptive response to a key environmental stress. METHODS:We examined the consequences of a naturally occurring loss-of-function (LOF) mutation in an Italian allele of the gene that encodes the transcription factor CBF2, which underlies a major freezing-tolerance locus. We used four lines with a Swedish genetic background, each containing a LOF CBF2 allele. Two lines had introgression segments containing the Italian CBF2 allele, and two contained deletions created using CRISPR-Cas9. We used a growth chamber experiment to quantify freezing tolerance and gene expression before and after cold acclimation. RESULTS:Freezing tolerance was lower in the Italian (11%) compared to the Swedish (72%) ecotype, and all four experimental CBF2 LOF lines had reduced freezing tolerance compared to the Swedish ecotype. Differential expression analyses identified 10 genes for which all CBF2 LOF lines, and the IT ecotype had similar patterns of reduced cold responsive expression compared to the SW ecotype. CONCLUSIONS:We identified 10 genes that are at least partially regulated by CBF2 that may contribute to the differences in cold-acclimated freezing tolerance between the Italian and Swedish ecotypes. These results provide novel insight into the molecular and physiological mechanisms connecting a naturally occurring sequence polymorphism to an adaptive response to freezing conditions.
Project description:The perennial grass species that are being developed as biomass feedstock crops harbor extensive genotypic diversity, but the effects of this diversity on biomass production are not well understood. We investigated the effects of genotypic diversity in switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) and big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii) on perennial biomass cropping systems in two experiments conducted over 2008-2014 at a 5.4-ha fertile field site in northeastern Illinois, USA. We varied levels of switchgrass and big bluestem genotypic diversity using various local and nonlocal cultivars - under low or high species diversity, with or without nitrogen inputs - and quantified establishment, biomass yield, and biomass composition. In one experiment ('agronomic trial'), we compared three switchgrass cultivars in monoculture to a switchgrass cultivar mixture and three different species mixtures, with or without N fertilization. In another experiment ('diversity gradient'), we varied diversity levels in switchgrass and big bluestem (1, 2, 4, or 6 cultivars per plot), with one or two species per plot. In both experiments, cultivar mixtures produced yields equivalent to or greater than the best cultivars. In the agronomic trial, the three switchgrass mixture showed the highest production overall, though not significantly different than best cultivar monoculture. In the diversity gradient, genotypic mixtures had one-third higher biomass production than the average monoculture, and none of the monocultures were significantly higher yielding than the average mixture. Year-to-year variation in yields was lowest in the three-cultivar switchgrass mixtures and Cave-In-Rock (the southern Illinois cultivar) and also reduced in the mixture of switchgrass and big bluestem relative to the species monocultures. The effects of genotypic diversity on biomass composition were modest relative to the differences among species and genotypes. Our findings suggest that local genotypes can be included in biomass cropping systems without compromising yields and that genotypic mixtures could help provide high, stable yields of high-quality biomass feedstocks.
Project description:Few surveys have concentrated on studying the adaptive value of phenotypic plasticity within genetically-distinct conspecific ecotypes. Here, we conduct a test to assess the adaptive value that partial phenotypic plasticity may have for survival in the marine gastropod Littorina saxatilis. This species has evolved canalized ecotypes but, nevertheless, the ecotypes show some phenotypic plasticity for the traits under divergent selection between wave-exposed and high-predation habitats.We exposed juveniles of each ecotype to several environmental treatments under laboratory conditions in order to produce shape variation associated with plasticity. The two ecotypes from different treatments were then transplanted to the wave-exposed habitat and the survival rate was monitored. Ecotype explained the largest distinction in survival rate while treatment caused variation in survival rate within the ecotype released into its parental habitat which was correlated with plastic changes in shell shape. Snails that had experienced a treatment mimicking the environment of the transplantation location survived with the highest rate, while individuals from the contrary experimental treatment had lower survivorship.We conclude that the partial plastic response shown in Littorina saxatilis has a significant impact on fitness, although this remains small compared to the overall adaptive difference between ecotypes.
Project description:Coexistence in the same habitat of closely related yet genetically different populations is a phenomenon that challenges our understanding of local population structure and adaptation. Identifying the underlying mechanisms for such coexistence can yield new insight into adaptive evolution, diversification and the potential for organisms to adapt and persist in response to a changing environment. Recent studies have documented cryptic, sympatric populations of Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) in coastal areas. We analysed genetic origin of 6,483 individual cod sampled annually over 14 years from 125 locations along the Norwegian Skagerrak coast and document stable coexistence of two genetically divergent Atlantic cod ecotypes throughout the study area and study period. A "fjord" ecotype dominated in numbers deep inside fjords while a "North Sea" ecotype was the only type found in offshore North Sea. Both ecotypes coexisted in similar proportions throughout coastal habitats at all spatial scales. The size-at-age of the North Sea ecotype on average exceeded that of the fjord ecotype by 20% in length and 80% in weight across all habitats. Different growth and size among individuals of the two types might be one of several ecologically significant variables that allow for stable coexistence of closely related populations within the same habitat. Management plans, biodiversity initiatives and other mitigation strategies that do not account for the mixture of species ecotypes are unlikely to meet objectives related to the sustainability of fish and fisheries.