Deschampsia cespitosa and soil acidification: general and trait-specific responses to acid and aluminium stress in a solution experiment

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Genetically based adaptation and phenotypic plasticity represent important means of coping with natural or human-induced increases in soil acidity. In the present study, we examined the role of phenotypic plasticity in the grass Deschampsia cespitosa by testing for general and trait-specific responses to acid and aluminium (Al) stress. We sampled tussocks (genets) from sites in southern Sweden differing in their exposure to acid deposition, and quantified the performance of each genet under low pH and high Al levels in a solution experiment using the length and biomass of both shoots and roots as response variables. In agreement with results from a previous solution experiment, the overall performance (expressed as total biomass) declined under acid and Al stress, and there was no evidence for local genetic adaptation with respect to acidity. Three Oland populations showed signs of being stimulated by high Al levels, despite originating from relatively basic soils. We observed a significant increase in root length under high Al levels and hypothesize that this response may be adaptive in the natural soil environment, allowing growing roots to "escape" patches of soil with toxic concentrations of this element. Our results for D. cespitosa indicate that phenotypic plasticity has the potential to mitigate the negative effects of soil acidity in this species.


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Ämnesklassifikation (UKÄ) – OBLIGATORISK

  • Ekologi
Sidor (från-till)97-104
TidskriftNordic Journal of Botany
StatusPublished - 2011
Peer review utfördJa