What does not kill you makes you stronger

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Press release from the University of Montana and the University of Guizhou.

Early exposure to Ffluctuating water availability can alter the adaptability of plants in later life stages, but can also improve plant performance under stressful or changing conditions. The results are published in the British Ecological Society’s Journal of Ecology.

Early exposure to fluctuating water availability can alter the adaptability of plants to later life stages of several studied species. Credit: Andreas Rockstein.

In a new study published in the Journal of Ecologyresearchers from the University of Guizhou and the University of Montana found that fluctuating environmental conditions early in a plant’s life can alter its ability to respond to changing conditions down the line by modifying its adaptive responses.

Previous studies have focused on how plants respond to environments at a certain stage of development. However, a plant’s life is continuous and spans months or years, and its ability to adapt to new or changing environments may also change over time.

Shu Wang of the University of Guizhou and Ragan Callaway of the University of Montana studied changes in plant plasticity, or an organism’s ability to change or adapt to its environment, in plants subjected to variable water availability at several stages of their life cycle. These changes in an organism’s ability to change in new, fluctuating, or stressful environments have been dubbed “plasticity within plasticity.”

The researchers studied a mix of native and exotic plant species from three different habitats subjected to either alternating drought and flood conditions or environments with a constantly moderate water supply. The study was repeated on two stages of the plant’s life cycle to assess what effect changes in water availability early in plant life affected plant plasticity later in life.

The author’s results provide direct evidence for changes in plant plasticity over their lifetimes, something that has rarely been addressed before.

Oxeye Daisy Plant Plasticity Adaptability Britich Ecological Society
The researchers studied 8 different plant species, including the invasive daisy. Credit: Matt Lavin.

It has been found that early subjection to fluctuating water availability not only alters the plasticity of plants in later life stages, but can also improve plant performance under stressful or changing conditions by altering its adaptive responses. In general, these plants experienced increased biomass and late growth, but different species may adopt different contrasting strategies to cope with fluctuating environments.

Plant species native to environments with a well-balanced water supply first suffered a decline in biomass immediately after being subjected to environmental fluctuations, but overcame this decline through increased growth later in life. life. Exotic species, however, experienced an immediate increase in biomass but did not experience the same subsequent growth spurt.

These results contribute to the understanding of many ecological and evolutionary problems and hwith implications for important ecological issues such as habitat adaptation, species diversity and distribution, and macroevolution.

You can read the full research article here:

https://besjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1365-2745.13959

/Public release. This material from the original organization/authors may be ad hoc in nature, edited for clarity, style and length. The views and opinions expressed are those of the author or authors. See in full here.
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