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Oecologia. 2006 Dec;150(3):506-18. Epub 2006 Sep 6.

Local adaptation in the monocarpic perennial Carlina vulgaris at different spatial scales across Europe.

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  • 1Department of Biology, University of Marburg, 35032, Marburg, Germany.


Spatial variation in environmental conditions can lead to local adaptation of plant populations, particularly if gene flow among populations is low. Many studies have investigated adaptation to contrasting environmental conditions, but little is known about the spatial scale of adaptive evolution. We studied population differentiation and local adaptation at two spatial scales in the monocarpic grassland perennial Carlina vulgaris. We reciprocally transplanted seedlings among five European regions (northwestern Czech Republic, central Germany, Luxembourg, southern Sweden and northwestern Switzerland) and among populations of different sizes within three of the regions. We recorded survival, growth and reproduction over three growing periods. At the regional scale, several performance traits and the individual fitness of C. vulgaris were highest if the plants were grown in their home region and they decreased with increasing transplant distance. The effects are likely due to climatic differences that increased with the geographical distance between regions. At the local scale, there were significant interactions between the effects of the population of origin and the transplant site, but these were not due to an enhanced performance of plants at their home site and they were not related to the geographical or environmental distance between the site of origin and the transplant site. The size of the population of origin did not influence the strength of local adaptation. The results of our study suggest that C. vulgaris consists of regionally adapted genotypes, and that distance is a good predictor of the extent of adaptive differentiation at large scales ( > 200 km) but not at small scales. We conclude that patterns of local adaptation should be taken into account for the efficient preservation of genetic resources, when assessing the status of a plant species and during conservation planning.

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