Plasticity of the phenotypic architecture of wild barley, Hordeum spontaneum, was studied in response to water and nutrient stress. Direct and indirect selection on several vegetative and reproductive traits was estimated and path analysis used to reveal how regulating pathways via maternal investment differed between environments. Vegetative traits displayed differential regulating effect on fitness across experimental environments: (1) increase in size was selected for under optimal conditions and under water stress, but not under nutrient stress; (2) allocation to root biomass was selected for under optimal conditions, but it had no effect under nutrient stress and was strongly selected against when water was limiting; (3) delayed onset of reproduction was selected under nutrient limitation whereas earlier onset was selected under water stress. The regulating effect of reproductive traits on final reproductive output also differed across treatments, operating either at the 'early' stage of plant development through varying the number of initiated spikelets per spike (no stress and water stress treatment) or at the 'late' developmental stage adjusting the fertile spikelet weight (no stress and nutrient stress treatment). Reproductive output was regulated via seed abortion under no stress and water stress treatments. Although the underlying mechanism of the regulation through abortion has yet to be discovered, the specific mechanism of abortion under water stress appears to be different from that under optimal conditions. Our results demonstrate that not only is the character architecture in wild barley plastic and sensitive to changing availability of water and nutrients, but the regulating mechanism of maternal investment is also environmentally sensitive [KEYWORDS: natural selection; path analysis; phenotypic; integration; seed; abortion; seed; size-number; trade-off trait; correlations]
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Evolutionary Biology
Journal publication date2004

ID: 125775