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Rapid adaptive evolution to drought in a subset of plant traits in a large-scale climate change experiment


Metz, Johannes et al. (2021), Rapid adaptive evolution to drought in a subset of plant traits in a large-scale climate change experiment, Dryad, Dataset,


Rapid evolution of traits and of plasticity may enable adaptation to climate change, yet solid experimental evidence under natural conditions is scarce. Here, we imposed rainfall manipulations (+30%, control, -30%) for ten years on entire natural plant communities in two Eastern Mediterranean sites. Additional sites along a natural rainfall gradient and selection analyses in a greenhouse assessed whether potential responses were adaptive. In both sites, our annual target species Biscutella didyma consistently evolved earlier phenology and higher reproductive allocation under drought. Multiple arguments suggest that this response was adaptive: it aligned with theory, corresponding trait shifts along the natural rainfall gradient, and selection analyses under differential watering in the greenhouse. However, another seven candidate traits did not evolve, and there was little support for evolution of plasticity. Our results provide compelling evidence for rapid adaptive evolution under climate change. Yet, several non-evolving traits may indicate potential constraints to full adaptation.


The data table contains trait values for ten plant functional traits of 320 genotypes of Biscutella didyma, raised in the greenhouse under five water levels. Genotypes originated from four sites along a natural rainfall gradient: In the two intermediate sites (SA semi-arid, M Mediterranean) ten years Climate Change manipulations (dry -30%, control, wet +30% rainfall) had been imposed prior to seed collection; two additional control sites (A arid, MM mesic-Mediterranean) extended the span of the natural rainfall gradient.


Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, Award: TI338/11-1

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, Award: TI338/11-2

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, Award: ME 2742/6-1