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Life history and carbon economic trade-offs adapting an annual plant across a climate gradient

Wolfe, Marnin (2013) Life history and carbon economic trade-offs adapting an annual plant across a climate gradient. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Understanding the mechanisms behind adaptation to different climates is key to understanding the prevalent phenomenon of local adaptation in plants. Variation among sites in seasonal patterns of temperature and precipitation is thought to select functional strategies that work locally but not range-wide. These strategies tend to involve the concerted evolution of suites of traits including life history, acquisition and allocation resources. I studied adaptive differentiation due to climate in Arabidopsis thaliana. I examine natural genetic variation in this genome-sequenced species, because it provides insight into the functional ecology of annual plants generally, while providing context for future research on adaptation genetics. I investigated plants collected along an altitudinal gradient where hot, dry low contrasts cold, wet high elevation climates. Heating and drying in a growth chamber during reproduction favored plants from low elevations where conditions are most similar to the experiment. I found that stress avoidance traits like earlier flowering and faster fruit ripening were advantageous in this setting. Subsequently, I focused on how variation in the lifespan-dependent balance between carbon income and investment adapt plants across the climate gradient. Leaves generally fall along a continuum between short lives with rapid photosynthesis and long lives with slow photosynthesis, a pattern known as the worldwide leaf economic spectrum. Under seasonal hot, dry growth chamber conditions simulating low elevation climate, I demonstrated for the first time natural variation in an economic spectrum at the rosette level. Low elevation plants had short-lived economies compared to plants from colder, wetter locations. I then considered the whole plant including photosynthetic inflorescences, which were previously ignored. I discovered that earlier flowering led to a majority of the whole plant economy depending on the contribution of the inflorescence. Plants as a whole exhibited the same trade-offs observed at lower levels of organization, with inflorescence-centric life adapting plants for avoidance of spring stress. My work supports the general hypothesis that avoidance of stress at low elevation, which requires a fast life, is traded off with a strategy of delay and tolerance associated with winter in high altitude populations, leading to local adaptation.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Wolfe, Marninmdw23@pitt.eduMDW23
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairTonsor, Stephen Jtonsor@pitt.eduTONSOR
Committee MemberAshman, Tia-Lynntia1@pitt.eduTIA1
Committee MemberKalisz, Susankalisz@pitt.eduKALISZ
Committee MemberStinchcombe, John
Committee MemberTraw, M. Brianmbtraw@pitt.eduMBTRAW
Date: 20 November 2013
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 30 August 2013
Approval Date: 20 November 2013
Submission Date: 13 September 2013
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 216
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Biological Sciences
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Climate gradient, local adaptation, adaptive differentiation, trade-offs, worldwide leaf economic spectrum, Arabidopsis thaliana, clinal variation
Date Deposited: 20 Nov 2013 20:39
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 14:15


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