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Climatic factors shaping intraspecific leaf trait variation of a neotropical tree along a rainfall gradient

AuthorsSouza, Matheus L.; Duarte, Alexandre A.; Lovato, Maria B.; Fagundes, Marcilio; Valladares Ros, Fernando ; Lemos Filho, J. P.
Issue Date6-Dec-2018
PublisherPublic Library of Science
CitationPLoS ONE 13: e0208512 (2018)
AbstractIntraspecific trait variation has been singled out as an important mechanism by which individuals can cope with environmental variations and avoid local extinctions. Here we evaluate variation in metamer traits (i.e., traits associated with internodes, petioles and their corresponding leaves) and parameters of chlorophyll fluorescence within and among populations of a neotropical tree, Copaifera langsdorffii. We also evaluated phenotypic plasticity in natural settings comparing traits between shade and sun-exposed metamers. We selected six populations along a climatic gradient ranging from semi-arid to humid and representing three different biomes (Caatinga, Cerrado, and Atlantic Forest). Local climatic conditions significantly affected the morphological and physiological traits of populations. Trait variation among populations was explained mainly by aridity index and evapotranspiration. Individuals from drier regions had lower specific leaf area (SLA), lower investment in leaf area per total dry mass of metamer (LARm), lower specific petiole length (SPL) and lower potential quantum yield (Fv/Fm, only for sun-exposed metamers). Populations from locations with greater environmental heterogeneity (interannual variation) had greater plasticity in response to light for Fv/Fm and electron transport rate (ETR) and morphological traits related to the hydraulic and biomechanical aspects of the leaves (petiole length, internode length and SPL). High intraspecific variation in metamer traits in C. langsdorffii coupled with its ability to modify these traits in response to different climate conditions can explain the success of the species over a range of different habitats and represent important factors for the persistence of this species in the face of climate change.
Publisher version (URL)https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0208512
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