Contrasting adaptive trait variation in response to drought in two Mediterranean shrubs
Adaptive evolution and phenotypic plasticity are key mechanisms of climate change responses. However, we still lack a detailed understanding of the strategies different species use to cope with climatic changes such as increased droughts, particularly for species with special edaphic requirements and limited dispersal such as gypsum endemics. In this study, we assessed phenotypic and genotypic selection, phenotypic plasticity and genetic variation in traits potentially related to drought response in two dominant gypsum Mediterranean species, Helianthemum squamatum and Centaurea hyssopifolia. We established a common garden in which 524 plants from 79 maternal families from both species were grown under two contrasting watering treatments. Our results revealed that selection was stronger under drought than well-watered conditions for both species, but we found contrasting adaptive strategies and genetic variation. In H. squamatum, a drought-escape strategy with advanced reproductive phenology and faster growth rates was positively associated with fitness under dry conditions, and most adaptive traits exhibited quantitative genetic variation. In contrast, in C. hyssopifolia, selection under dry conditions favored a drought-tolerance strategy with thicker leaves and longer phenologies, but all traits lacked quantitative genetic variation, indicating that their evolutionary potential may be limited. Most traits exhibited significant plasticity in response to drought and genetic variation for trait plasticity in both species, indicating that trait plasticity can evolve independently of the evolution of trait means in these gypsophiles. Our results show that these gypsum endemic species vary in strategies and adaptive potential in response to drought, which contributes to our understanding of potential adaptive responses to climate change in such edaphic specialists.
This study was funded by the Spanish Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad (grant GYPSEVOL, CGL2016-75566-P) and the Madrid Regional Government (grant Remedinal3-CM, S2013/MAE-2719). We acknowledge the thorough and constructive revisions performed by three anonymous reviewers, which have undoubtedly improved the quality of our manuscript. We thank Carlos Díaz, Arón Carpintero and José Luis Margalet for their assistance during experimental set-up and data collection. We are also indebted to Baldomero Fernández and Yesos Ibéricos-Algiss for providing the gypsum soil where plants were grown.
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