Colorado mountains

The community context of adaptation to environmental change

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Presenter/Primary Author: 
Elizabeth Kleynhans
Sarah P. Otto
Mark Vellend

The ability of a species to evolve to match environmental conditions is a well-known phenomenon. Similarly, it is well known that the biotic (competitive) environment can promote adaptive or evolutionary changes. However, rarely have scientists investigated how the complexity and composition of the biotic community might influence the ability of species to adapt to an altered abiotic environment. How community context might influence evolutionary change to abiotic conditions is an important question because not only are contemporary communities faced with changing abiotic conditions but their member species are being reshuffled due to differing abilities of species to track preferred climatic conditions and due to the influx of exotic species.

Initiated in 1997, BioCON at Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve is a long-term experiment in which biodiversity, carbon dioxide and nitrogen have been manipulated. This experiment allows us to investigate whether the diversity of the biotic community has influenced the way a species has adapted to environmental change (specifically, elevated CO2). In June 2011 we collected Poa pratensis (Kentucky Bluegrass) seeds from plots that were kept as either monocultures or 16-species plots under either ambient or elevated CO2 conditions.  We then grew these seeds in a common garden environment within a greenhouse at the University of British Columbia. From these common garden plants we sampled ramets that were transplanted back into plots within the BioCON experiment, using a fully factorial reciprocal transplant design. Preliminary results from measurements of survival and growth rate will be presented.

Student Poster: 

Background Photo by: Nicole Hansen - Jornada (JRN) LTER