The importance of plant genotype and contemporary evolution for terrestrial ecosystem processes
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Fitzpatrick, C. R.; Agrawal, Anurag A.; Basiliko, N.; Hastings, Amy P.; Isaac, M. E.; Preston, M.; Johnson, Mark T.
Plant genetic variation and evolutionary dynamics are predicted to impact ecosystem processes but these effects are poorly understood. Here we test the hypothesis that plant genotype and contemporary evolution influence the flux of energy and nutrients through soil, which then feedback to affect seedling performance in subsequent generations. We conducted a multiyear field evolution experiment using the native biennial plant Oenothera biennis. This experiment was coupled with experimental assays to address our hypothesis and quantify the relative importance of evolutionary and ecological factors on multiple ecosystem processes. Plant genotype, contemporary evolution, spatial variation, and herbivory affected ecosystem processes (e.g., leaf decay, soil respiration, seedling performance, N cycling), but their relative importance varied between specific ecosystem variables. Insect herbivory and evolution also contributed to a feedback that affected seedling biomass of O. biennis in the next generation. Our results show that heritable variation among plant genotypes can be an important factor affecting local ecosystem processes, and while effects of contemporary evolution were detectable and sometimes strong, they were often contingent on other ecological factors.
This work was funded by a National Science Foundation grant (EAGER - 0950231) to A. Agrawal and M. Johnson, as well as an NSERC Discovery grant, a Canadian Foundation for Innovation LOF grant and Ontario Research Fund grant to M. Johnson.
Ecological Society of America
aboveground-belowground interactions; eco-evo dynamics; ecosystem genetics; evening primrose; extended phenotype; litter decay; soil ecosystem
Fitzpatrick, C. R., Agrawal, A. A., Basiliko, N., Hastings, A. P., Isaac, M. E., Preston, M., & Johnson, M. T. J. (2015). The importance of plant genotype and contemporary evolution for terrestrial ecosystem processes. Ecology, 96(10), 2632–2642.