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Data from: Compensatory mechanisms to climate change in the widely distributed species Silene vulgaris


Kahl, Sandra M.; Lenhard, Michael; Joshi, Jasmin (2019), Data from: Compensatory mechanisms to climate change in the widely distributed species Silene vulgaris, Dryad, Dataset,


1. The adaptation of plants to future climatic conditions is crucial for their survival. Not surprisingly, phenotypic responses to climate change have already been observed in many plant populations. These responses may be due to evolutionary adaptive changes or phenotypic plasticity. Especially plant species with a wide geographic range are either expected to show genetic differentiation in response to differing climate conditions or to have a high phenotypic plasticity. 2. We investigated phenotypic responses and plasticity as an estimate of the adaptive potential in the widespread species Silene vulgaris. In a greenhouse experiment, 25 European populations covering a geographic range from the Canary Islands to Sweden were exposed to three experimental precipitation and two temperature regimes mimicking a possible climate-change scenario for central Europe. We hypothesized that southern populations have a better performance under high temperature and drought conditions, as they are already adapted to a comparable environment. 3. We found that our treatments significantly influenced the plants, but did not reveal a latitudinal difference in response to climate treatments for most plant traits. Only flower number showed a stronger plasticity in northern European populations (e.g. Swedish populations) where numbers decreased more drastically with increased temperature and decreased precipitation treatment. 4. Synthesis. The significant treatment response in S. vulgaris, independent of population origin — except for the number of flowers produced — suggests a high degree of universal phenotypic plasticity in this widely distributed species. This reflects the likely adaptation strategy of the species and forms the basis for a successful survival strategy during upcoming climatic changes. However, as flower number, a strongly fitness related trait, did decrease in northern populations under a climate-change scenario, there might be limits to adaptation even in this widespread, plastic species.

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