Send to

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Ecology. 2006 Mar;87(3):665-74.

Evidence for life history changes in high-altitude populations of three perennial forbs.

Author information

  • 1Institute of Integrative Biology ETH, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Z├╝rich, Switzerland.


Relatively little is known about how the life histories of perennial forb species, and especially their lifetime patterns of growth, vary across environmental gradients. We used a post hoc approach (herb-chronology) to determine plant age and previous growth (width of successive annual rings in roots) in three species of perennial forb (two long-lived species [Penstemon venustus, Lupinus laxiflorus] and one short-lived [Rudbeckia occidentalis]) along a 1000-m altitudinal gradient in the Wallowa Mountains (northeast Oregon, USA). Plants from the highest altitude tended to be considerably older and produced up to five times as many flowering shoots as lowland plants. In addition, mean ring widths of high-altitude plants were about half those of lowland plants. In plants from low and intermediate altitudes, ring width either decreased linearly or varied inconsistently during the life of the plant. In contrast, ring widths of high-altitude plants increased at first and later decreased, resulting in curvilinear growth trajectories that were highly consistent among species. Together, these data for three ecologically distinct forb species provide evidence of a consistent shift toward more conservative and strongly constrained life histories at higher altitudes. More generally, the results indicate the possible importance of changes in selection pressures across strong environmental gradients on life history strategies within a single species.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Loading ...
    Support Center