Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt
(DBU), Stiftung Landesbank Baden-Württemberg
April 2018 - March 2021
We use the resurrection approach to compare
populations of 60 plant species from three regions (continental Europe,
European Alps, Mediterranean region) from a few decades ago with the current
situation to infer whether recent climate change caused rapid evolutionary
Plant populations have to cope with various
environmental changes over time, and climate change is one of the strongest
impacts. In the future, climatic changes are likely to become even stronger.
But climate change has already advanced rapidly over the last few decades, so
it is interesting to investigate how plants have adapted to these past changes.
There are lots of studies focusing on adaptations due to manipulated conditions
in greenhouse experiments but till this day only little is known about whether
plants have already adapted. To investigate this, we aim to compare seed
material from five European seedbanks with recollected material from the
original populations today. The accessions we use in this project are older
than 20 years and the original location is known exactly. In total we include
60 accessions from three different European biogeographic regions (continental
Europe, European Alps and the Mediterranean) in a greenhouse experiment where
we compare plants germinated from the seed bank seeds and from the recollected
seeds. Here we focus on differences in phenology and morphological traits.
After this first experiment we use seeds from the first generation to set up a
second experiment with 12 species in which we use a half-sib design in order to
get a deeper insight into underlying genetic features of the observed
morphological differences by using quantitative genetics. In this second
experiment we will allo apply region-specific treatments (temperature, drought,
competition) in order to investigate evolution in plant phenotypic responses.
These two experiments may provide information
about general evolutive changes in the European flora which have already
occurred over the last decades. Furthermore as we use different species from
different functional groups and different regions we can try to generalise
about plant responses and predict which species may be able to adapt to future
climate changes. This knowledge can be used for longtime strategies in
agriculture, forestry and restoration projects.
The resurrection approach that we apply is an
innovative way to use stored seed material for research projects focusing on
rapid evolution and the potential of plant populations to adapt to changing
Prof. Dr. Oliver Bossdorf (University of
Tübingen), Dr. Elke Zippel (Botanischer Garten und Botanisches Museum
Berlin-Dahlem), Dr. Nikolai Friesen (Loki Schmidt-Genbank für Wildpflanzen,
Osnabrück), Dr. Sandrine Godefroid (Seed bank of the Botanic Garden Meise),
Noémie Fort (Banque de semences du Conservatoire Botanique National Alpin,
Gap), Lara Dixon (Banque de semences du Conservatoire Botanique National
Méditerranéen de Porquerolles, Hyères)
Rauschkolb R, Henres L, Lou C, Godefroid S, Dixon L, Durka W, Bossdorf O, Ensslin A, Scheepens JF (2021) Historical comparisons show evolutionary changes in drought responses in European plant species after two decades of climate change. Basic and Applied Ecology accepted.