Plastic and genetic responses of a common sedge to warming have contrasting effects on carbon cycle processes

Author(s)
Tom W. N. Walker, Wolfram Weckwerth, Luca Bragazza, Lena Fragner, Brian G. Forde, Nicholas J. Ostle, Constant Signarbieux, Xiaoliang Sun, Susan E. Ward, Richard D. Bardgett
Abstract

Climate warming affects plant physiology through genetic adaptation and phenotypic plasticity, but little is known about how these mechanisms influence ecosystem processes. We used three elevation gradients and a reciprocal transplant experiment to show that temperature causes genetic change in the sedge Eriophorum vaginatum. We demonstrate that plants originating from warmer climate produce fewer secondary compounds, grow faster and accelerate carbon dioxide (CO2) release to the atmosphere. However, warmer climate also caused plasticity in E. vaginatum, inhibiting nitrogen metabolism, photosynthesis and growth and slowing CO2 release into the atmosphere. Genetic differentiation and plasticity in E. vaginatum thus had opposing effects on CO2 fluxes, suggesting that warming over many generations may buffer, or reverse, the short-term influence of this species over carbon cycle processes. Our findings demonstrate the capacity for plant evolution to impact ecosystem processes, and reveal a further mechanism through which plants will shape ecosystem responses to climate change.

Organisation(s)
Functional and Evolutionary Ecology, Large-Instrument Facility for Mass Spectrometry in Life Sciences, Research Platform Vienna Metabolomics Center
External organisation(s)
University of Manchester, UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH), Lancaster University, Eidgenössische Forschungsanstalt für Wald, Schnee und Landschaft, École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne, Universitá degli studi di Ferrara
Journal
Ecology Letters
Volume
22
Pages
159-169
No. of pages
11
ISSN
1461-023X
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1111/ele.13178
Publication date
01-2019
Peer reviewed
Yes
Austrian Fields of Science 2012
106030 Plant ecology, 106057 Metabolomics, 105203 Bioclimatology, 106031 Plant physiology
Keywords
ASJC Scopus subject areas
Global and Planetary Change, Plant Science, Physiology
Portal url
https://ucris.univie.ac.at/portal/en/publications/plastic-and-genetic-responses-of-a-common-sedge-to-warming-have-contrasting-effects-on-carbon-cycle-processes(d49cfb61-a4b5-46eb-9f9d-6792eea523a8).html