Across-species comparisons show that inherent variation in relative growth rate (RGR) and its underlying traits are correlated with habitat productivity. In this study, we test the hypothesis that growth rate-related traits confer differential selective effects in contrasting nutrient environments. We specifically test whether high RGR is targeted by selection in nutrient-rich environments whereas low values of traits that underlie RGR [specific leaf area (SLA), leaf mass fraction and leaf area ratio (LAR)] confer a direct fitness advantage in nutrient-poor environments, resulting in selection of low RGR as a correlated response. We measured RGR, its underlying component traits, and estimated fitness in a range of wild barley (Hordeum spontaneum) accessions grown under high and low nutrient conditions. Selection on component traits differed between the two environments, while total selection of RGR was not significant. Using multiple regression and path analysis to estimate direct fitness effects, a selective advantage of high LAR and SLA was demonstrated only under nutrient-rich conditions. While supporting the view that observed associations between habitat richness and some RGR-component traits reflect adaptation to differing nutrient regimes, our data suggest that direct selection targets component traits rather than RGR itself. [KEYWORDS: fitness Hordeum indirect selection leaf area ratio leaf mass fraction path analysis phenotypic selection relative growth rate specific leaf area unit leaf rate]
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Evolutionary Biology
Journal publication date2004

ID: 377671