Population variation in early development can determine ecological resilience in response to environmental change

Greg M. Walter, Stefania Catara, Jon R. Bridle, Antonia Cristaudo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


As climate change transforms seasonal patterns of temperature and precipitation, germination success at marginal temperatures will become critical for the long-term persistence of many plant species and communities. If populations vary in their environmental sensitivity to marginal temperatures across a species’ geographical range, populations that respond better to future environmental extremes are likely to be critical for maintaining ecological resilience of the species. Using seeds from two to six populations for each of nine species of Mediterranean plants, we characterized patterns of among-population variation in environmental sensitivity by quantifying genotype-by-environment interactions (G × E) for germination success at temperature extremes, and under two light regimes representing conditions below and above the soil surface. For eight of nine species tested at hot and cold marginal temperatures, we observed substantial among-population variation in environmental sensitivity for germination success, and this often depended on the light treatment. Importantly, different populations often performed best at different environmental extremes. Our results demonstrate that ongoing changes in temperature regime will affect the phenology, fitness, and demography of different populations within the same species differently. We show that quantifying patterns of G × E for multiple populations, and understanding how such patterns arise, can test mechanisms that promote ecological resilience.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1312-1324
Number of pages13
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • climate change
  • ecological resilience
  • environmental sensitivity
  • genotype-by-environment interactions
  • germination success
  • intraspecific variation
  • Mediterranean ecosystems
  • seed ecology

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