Phenotypic plasticity in response to an irradiance gradient in Iris pumila: adaptive value and evolutionary constraints
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Adaptive values of plasticity in Iris pumila leaf traits (morphological: SLA, specific leaf area; anatomical: SD, stomatal density; LT, leaf thickness; VBN, vascular bundle number; SW, sclerenchyma width; CW, cuticle width, and physiological: ChlT, total chlorophyll concentration; ChlA/B, chlorophyll a/b ratio) were tested at three irradiance levels in a growth-room. Siblings from 28 full-sib families from an open dune site and a woodland understory responded similarly to variation in light availability: SLA gradually increased, while anatomical and physiological traits decreased with light reduction. In the Dune population, standardized linear selection gradients were significant for SLA and ChlT at high light, VBN along the entire light gradient, SW at high- and low-, and ChlA/B at low-irradiance. In the Woods population, the significant standardized linear selection gradients were observed for SLA and LT at low- and VBN at both high- and low-irradiance. A significant nonlinear selection gradient was recorded for SD and LT at medium irradiance. Comparisons of the plastic responses to each light quantity with the phenotypes favored by selection in that environments revealed that only an increased SLA value at low light in the Woods population was ecologically significant (adaptive). In the Dune population, SD and VBN entailed plasticity costs at low irradiance, while a cost of homeostasis was recognized for ChlT and ChlA/B at medium light, SD and CW at high- and low-, and SLA at high- and medium-light level. In the shaded population, CW and ChlA/B incurred plasticity costs at high irradiance, while for ChlT plasticity costs appeared under medium- and low-light conditions. In all leaf traits, genetic variation for plasticity was statistically undetectable. Genetic correlations between these traits were mostly insignificant, implying that they possess a capability for relatively independent evolution by natural selection across different light environments.