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Widely distributed plants are exposed to contrasting gradients in irradiance and photoperiod across latitude. We investigated the relative contribution of local specialization and phenotypic plasticity to variation in plant growth for three clones of the aquatic angiosperm Potamogeton pectinatus L., originating from 42.5 to 68° N. Plants were grown at a factorial combination of two irradiances (50 and 350 µmol m2 s1) and three photoperiods (13, 16 and 22 h) and morphology, gas-exchange rate and biomass accumulation were recorded. The overall response to variation in irradiance and photoperiod was similar for all three clones. Differences in irradiance resulted in strong acclimative changes in morphological and physiological characteristics. At low irradiance, pronounced vertical shoot extension compensated for the limited plasticity in leaf area production, while photosynthetic capacity, apparent quantum yield and total chlorophyll concentration increased. As a result, biomass yield at the end of the experimental period was similar in both treatments. A decrease in photoperiod also resulted in plastic changes in morphology (increase of leaf biomass per unit plant biomass) and physiology (increase of photosynthetic capacity). However, these acclimative responses did not fully compensate for differences in photoperiod, since biomass was significantly lower under 13 and 16 h photoperiods than at 22 h. P. pectinatus is therefore phenotypically plastic, rather than locally specialized to differences in irradiance and photoperiod.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)859-870
JournalJournal of Ecology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2002

ID: 325041