Journal article

Predicting adaptive evolution under elevated atmospheric CO₂ in the perennial grass Bromus erectus

  • Steinger, Thomas Institute of Environmental Sciences, University of Zurich, Switzerland - Botanisches Institut, University of Basel, Switzerland - Département de Biologie, Unité Ecologie et Evolution, Université de Fribourg, Switzerland
  • Stephan, André Institute of Environmental Sciences, University of Zurich, Switzerland
  • Schmid, Bernhard Institute of Environmental Sciences, University of Zurich, Switzerland
Published in:
  • Global Change Biology. - 2007, vol. 13, no. 5, p. 1028-1039
English Increasing concentrations of CO₂ in the atmosphere are likely to affect the ecological dynamics of plant populations and communities worldwide, yet little is known about potential evolutionary consequences of high CO₂. We employed a quantitative genetic framework to examine how the expression of genetic variation and covariation in fitness-related traits, and thus, the evolutionary potential of a species, is influenced by CO₂. In two field experiments, genotypes of the dominant grassland perennial Bromus erectus were grown for several years in plots maintained at present-day or at elevated CO₂ levels. Under noncompetitive conditions (experiment 1), elevated CO₂ had little impact on plant survival, growth, and reproduction. Under competitive conditions in plots with diverse plant communities (experiment 2), performance of B. erectus was reduced by elevated CO₂. This suggests that the effect of CO₂ was largely indirect, intensifying competitive interactions. Elevated CO₂ had significant effects on the expression of genetic variation in both the competitive and noncompetitive environment, but the effects were in opposite direction. Heritability of plant size was generally higher at elevated than at ambient CO₂ in the noncompetitive environment, but lower in the competitive environment. Selection analysis revealed a positive genotypic selection differential for plant size at ambient CO₂, indicating selection favoring genotypes with high growth rate. At elevated CO₂, the corresponding selection differential was nonsignificant and slightly negative. This suggests that elevated CO₂ is unlikely to stimulate the evolution of high biomass productivity in this species.
Faculté des sciences et de médecine
Département de Biologie
  • English
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