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Research article2021Peer reviewedOpen access

How does a wetland plant respond to increasing temperature along a latitudinal gradient?

Lindborg, Regina; Ermold, Matti; Kuglerova, Lenka; Jansson, Roland; Larson, Keith W.; Milbau, Ann; Cousins, Sara A. O.


Global warming affects plant fitness through changes in functional traits and thereby ecosystem function. Wetlands are declining worldwide, and hence, ecosystem functions linked to wetlands are threatened. We use Caltha palustris "a common wetland plant" to study whether warming affects growth and reproduction differently depending on origin of source population, potentially affecting phenotypic response to local climate. We conducted a 2-year in situ temperature manipulation experiment using clone pairs of C. palustris in four regions, along a 1300-km latitudinal gradient of Sweden. Open-top chambers were used to passively increase temperature, paired with controls. Growth and reproductive traits were measured from 320 plants (four regions x five sites x two treatments x eight plants) over two consecutive seasons to assess the effect of warming over time. We found that warming increased plant height, leaf area, number of leaves, and roots. High-latitude populations responded more strongly to warming than low-latitude populations, especially by increasing leaf area. Warming increased number of flowers in general, but only in the second year, while number of fruits increased in low-latitude populations the first year. Prolonged warming leads to an increase in both number of leaves and flowers over time. While reproduction shows varying and regional responses to warming, impacts on plant growth, especially in high-latitude populations, have more profound effects. Such effects could lead to changes in plant community composition with increased abundance of fast-growing plants with larger leaves and more clones, affecting plant competition and ecological functions such as decomposition and nutrient retention. Effects of warming were highly context dependent; thus, we encourage further use of warming experiments to predict changes in growth, reproduction, and community composition across wetland types and climate gradients targeting different plant forms.


Caltha palustris; climate change; experiment; open top chamber; traits; wetland

Published in

Ecology and Evolution
2021, Volume: 11, number: 22, pages: 16228-16238
Publisher: WILEY

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