Genetically based latitudinal variation in Artemisia californica secondary chemistry
Oikos, 2014, 123: 953–963 Pratt JD, Keefover-Ring K, Liu LY, Mooney KA

Steep climatic gradients may select for clinal adaptation in plant functional traits with implications for interspecific interactions and response to future climate change. Terpenes are common in Mediterranean environments and mediate plant interactions with both the abiotic and biotic environment, including herbivores. Clines in traits such as terpenes have received much attention because they are linked to plant fitness and experience strong selection from the abiotic and biotic environment. In this study, we tested for intraspecific variation in Artemisia californica terpene chemistry in a common garden of plants sourced from populations spanning a large precipitation gradient (6° latitude) and grown in treatments of high and low precipitation. We found genetic variation in terpene richness, diversity, concentration and composition among A. californica populations spanning this species' range. Of these traits, terpene composition and monoterpene concentration varied clinally with respect to source site latitude. Regarding terpene composition, pairwise dissimilarity among populations increased in parallel with geographic distance between source sites. At the same time, monoterpene concentration decreased monotonically from plants of southern origin (source sites with high temperature, aridity, and precipitation variability) to plants of northern origin. Our precipitation manipulation suggests that phenotypic selection by precipitation may underlie this clinal variation in monoterpene concentration, and that monoterpene concentration and other aspects of terpene chemistry are not phenotypically plastic. In summary, this study provides novel evidence for a genetically based latitudinal cline in plant secondary chemistry and suggests that adaptation to a key aspect of the abiotic environment may contribute to this intraspecific variation. Accordingly, changes in terpene chemistry under projected future climates will likely occur solely through the relatively slow process of adaptation, with important consequences for plant interactions with the abiotic environment and a diverse community of associates.

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