Trait Plasticity and Tradeoffs Shape Intraspecific Variation in Competitive Response in a Foundation Tree Species
Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
- The ability to tolerate neighboring plants (i.e. degree of competitive response) is a key determinant of plant success in high-competition environments. Plant genotypes adjust their functional trait expression under high levels of competition, which may help explain intra-specific variation in competitive response. However, the relationships between traits and competitive response are not well understood, especially in trees. In this study, we investigated among-genotype associations between tree trait plasticity and competitive response.
- We manipulated competition intensity in experimental stands of trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides) to address the covariance between competition-induced changes in functional trait expression and aspects of competitive ability at the genotype level.
- Genotypic variation in the direction and magnitude of functional trait responses, especially those of crown foliar mass, phytochemistry, and leaf physiology, was associated with genotypic variation in competitive response. Traits exhibited distinct plastic responses to competition, with varying degrees of genotypic variation and covariance with other trait responses.
- The combination of genotypic diversity and covariance among functional traits led to tree responses to competition that were coordinated among traits yet variable among genotypes. Such relationships between tree traits and competitive success have the potential to shape stand-level trait distributions over space and time.
Cope, O.L., Lindroth, R.L., Helm, A., Keefover-Ring, K. and Kruger, E.L. (2021), Trait plasticity and trade-offs shape intra-specific variation in competitive response in a foundation tree species. New Phytol, 230: 710-719. https://doi.org/10.1111/nph.17166