SP04e The role of genetic diversity and phenotypic plasticity in the context of the species diversity – ecosystem functioning relationship (sp04e Plant genetics)

Plant population responses to species diversity may either come about as an effect of phenotypic plasticity, due to genetic variation in individual responses, or due to genetic variation in phenotypic plasticity. However, genetic variation, an important level of biodiversity and fundamental as raw material for further evolution, has largely been neglected in biodiversity-ecosystem functioning research, especially on trees, although it is likely that species diversity affects genetic drift, inbreeding, gene flow and selection and therefore genetic variation. Moreover, genetic diversity may not only be a response variable, but may act as effect variable on plant performance itself. This follow-up project explores these issues using several approaches. Firstly, for the Comparative Study Plots, we will relate species diversity and other environmental and species-specific factors to phenology and to molecular and quantitative genetic diversity for several species, the former using microsatellite markers, the latter assessing heritabilities in the experimental garden. Secondly, in the main experiment, we will use our already planted “resident” and “additional” phytometer trees of known maternal seed families planted into the regular planting scheme (resident) or in addition to the planting scheme across all plots (additional) to address responses of plant performance and heritabilities, and to separate phenotypically plastic responses from responses due to genetic variation. Thirdly, we will use a subset of plots of the Main Experiment and the Pilot Experiment, both already planted in a factorial design crossing species diversity and genetic diversity, to assess the role of genetic diversity as driver of plant performance. Overall, the subproject will allow testing new hypotheses on the role of genetic diversity and phenotypic plasticity on plant performance in the context of the species diversity-ecosystem function relationship.


Paper proposal submissions