Does greater specific-leaf-area plasticity help plants to maintain a high performance when shaded?

The beautiful grassland in Inner Mongolia, China. Photo credit: Yanjie Liu.
The beautiful grassland in Inner Mongolia, China. Photo credit: Yanjie Liu.

Both phenotypic plasticity and local adaptation may allow widely distributed plant species to either acclimate or adapt to environmental heterogeneity. Given the typically low genetic variation of clonal plants across their habitats, phenotypic plasticity may be the primary adaptive strategy allowing them to thrive across a wide range of habitats. In a new study published in AoB PLANTS, Liu et al. used field investigation and controlled experiments to test this hypothesis. They found that plasticity in water use efficiency (reflected by foliar δ13C) is more important than local adaptation in allowing the clonal plant Leymus chinensis to occupy a wide range of habitats.


AoB PLANTS is an open-access, online journal that publishes peer-reviewed articles on all aspects of environmental and evolutionary biology. Published by Oxford University Press, AoB PLANTS provides a fast-track pathway for publishing high-quality research, where papers are available online to anyone, anywhere free of charge. Reasons to publish in AoB PLANTS include double-blind peer review of manuscripts, rapid processing time and low open-access charges.

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