Back to the wild - Combining transplant experiments with the resurrection approach to investigate rapid plant adaptations


Pascal Karitter, Niek Scheepens (host), Sandrine Godefroid, Andreas Ensslin


Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt (DBU)


January 2020 - December 2023

In short

We combine the resurrection approach with transplant experiments to study rapid evolutionary adaptations to recent environmental changes in four European plant species. We compare plants raised from seeds stored for several decades in a seed bank with plants raised from newly sampled seeds in both controlled common garden experiments as well as in the original populations in the field.

Project description

The aim of this project is to investigate how plants have been affected in their evolutionary adaptations by environmental changes in recent decades, especially by a warmer, drier climate and eutrophication. To this end, we apply the resurrection approach to four different European herbaceous plant species (Clinopodium vulgare, Leontodon hispidus, Linum tenuifolium & Melica ciliata). Here we not only use the material from the seed banks (ancestors, 1990s) and newly collected seeds (descendants), but we also hybridize the progenitors and descendants in each case to study the inheritance of selected traits. We plan to transplant seeds and seedlings from ancestors and descendants, as well as their hybrids, to the original sites of origin and conduct further common garden experiments with drought and fertiliztation treatments in the greenhouse. Existing molecular data will also be used in QST-FST analyses to examine past selection pressure on ecologically important traits. These approaches will allow us to paint a comprehensive picture of evolutionary processes over the past nearly 30 years within these four populations. In addition, the results of my work will be very valuable for conservation, restoration, and predictions for plant responses to climate change. Our work can reveal how quickly seed bank accessions lose their adaptations to their sites of origin, and whether hybridization of seed bank accessions with plants in the field affects population survival.

Additional collaborators

Robert Rauschkolb (Uni Tübingen)
Dr. Walter Durka (UFZ, Halle)


Karitter P, Covers E, Karrenbauer, M, March-Salas M, Stojanova B, Ensslin A., Rauschkolb R, Godefroid S, & Scheepens JF (2023). Evolution of competitive ability and the response to nutrient availability: a resurrection study with the calcareous grassland herb, Leontodon hispidus. EcoEvorxiv (under review in New Phytologist). Link

Karitter PMarch-Salas M, Ensslin A, Rauschkolb R, Godefroid S, & Scheepens JF (2023). Combining the resurrection approach with transplant experiments to investigate adaptation of plant populations to environmental change. EcoEvorxiv (under review in Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics). Link