Home » Functional acclimation across microgeographic scales in Dodonaea viscosa

Functional acclimation across microgeographic scales in Dodonaea viscosa

Intraspecific plant functional trait variation provides mechanistic insight into persistence and can infer population adaptive capacity. However, most studies explore intraspecific trait variation in systems where geographic and environmental distances co-vary. Such a design reduces the certainty of trait–environment associations, and it is imperative for studies that make trait–environment associations be conducted in systems where environmental distance varies independently of geographic distance.

Images of Dodonaea viscosa (a) seedlings at 3-month-old, (b) at 12-month-old, and (c) an adult female bearing ripe fruit in the field. Image credits: (a) Martin Breed, (b) Zdravko Baruch, (c) Nick Gellie.

In a recent study published in AoB PLANTS, Baruch et al. studied a native Australian shrub – Dodonaea viscosa, or sticky hop bush – in the wild and in a gardening experiment and found that the species can readily adapt to different environments.The results demonstrate that responses of a range of key functional traits in D. viscosa to the environment were highly plastic (e.g. SLA, leaf nitrogen content, carbon and nitrogen isotope ratios, stomatal size and density). The findings are particularly interesting because the plants used in the study came from sites with quite different environmental conditions (in particular they differed in aridity and altitude), although they were only short distances (< 100 km) apart. Since D. viscosa is commonly used for restoration in southern Australia and local populations do not show strong genetic differentiation in functional traits, the potential risks of transferring seed across the broad environmental conditions are not likely to be a significant issue.

William Salter

William (Tam) Salter is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the School of Life and Environmental Sciences and Sydney Institute of Agriculture at the University of Sydney. He has a bachelor degree in Ecological Science (Hons) from the University of Edinburgh and a PhD in plant ecophysiology from the University of Sydney. Tam is interested in the identification and elucidation of plant traits that could be useful for ecosystem resilience and future food security under global environmental change. He is also very interested in effective scientific communication.

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