The role of ecotypic variation and the environment on biomass and nitrogen in a dominant prairie grass

dc.contributor.authorMendola, M. L.
dc.contributor.authorBaer, S. G.
dc.contributor.authorJohnson, Loretta C.
dc.contributor.authorMaricle, B. R.
dc.descriptionCitation: Mendola, M. L., Baer, S. G., Johnson, L. C., & Maricle, B. R. (2015). The role of ecotypic variation and the environment on biomass and nitrogen in a dominant prairie grass. Ecology, 96(9), 2433-2445. doi:10.1890/14-1492.1
dc.descriptionKnowledge of the relative strength of evolution and the environment on a phenotype is required to predict species responses to environmental change and decide where to source plant material for ecological restoration. This information is critically needed for dominant species that largely determine the productivity of the central U.S. grassland. We established a reciprocal common garden experiment across a longitudinal gradient to test whether ecotypic variation interacts with the environment to affect growth and nitrogen (N) storage in a dominant grass. We predicted plant growth would increase from west to east, corresponding with increasing precipitation, but differentially among ecotypes due to local adaptation in all ecotypes and a greater range of growth response in ecotypes originating from west to east. We quantified aboveground biomass, root biomass, belowground net primary production (BNPP), root C:N ratio, and N storage in roots of three ecotypes of Andropogon gerardii collected from and reciprocally planted in central Kansas, eastern Kansas, and southern Illinois. Only the ecotype from the most mesic region (southern Illinois) exhibited more growth from west to east. There was evidence for local adaptation in the southern Illinois ecotype by means of the local vs. foreign contrast within a site and the home vs. away contrast when growth in southern Illinois was compared to the most distant site in central Kansas. Root biomass of the eastern Kansas ecotype was higher at home than at either away site. The ecotype from the driest region, central Kansas, exhibited the least response across the environmental gradient, resulting in a positive relationship between the range of biomass response and precipitation in ecotype region of origin. Across all sites, ecotypes varied in root C: N ratio (highest in the driest-origin ecotype) and N storage in roots (highest in the most mesic-origin ecotype). The low and limited range of biomass, higher C: N ratio of roots, and lower N storage in the central Kansas ecotype relative to the southern Illinois ecotype suggests that introducing ecotypes of A. gerardii from much drier regions into highly mesic prairie would reduce productivity and alter belowground ecosystem processes under a wide range of conditions.
dc.rightsCopyright by the Ecological Society of America
dc.subjectAndropogon Gerardii
dc.subjectEcosystem Function
dc.subjectLocal Adaptation
dc.titleThe role of ecotypic variation and the environment on biomass and nitrogen in a dominant prairie grass


Original bundle
Now showing 1 - 1 of 1
Thumbnail Image
Mendola_et_al-2015-Ecology (2).pdf
587.92 KB
Adobe Portable Document Format