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Research article2024Peer reviewedOpen access

Phenological evolution in annual plants under light competition, changes in the growth season and mass loss

Silva, Willian T. A. F.; Hansson, Mats; Johansson, Jacob


Flowering time is an important phenological trait in plants and a critical determinant of the success of pollination and fruit or seed development, with immense significance for agriculture as it directly affects crop yield and overall food production. Shifts in the growth season, changes in the growth season duration and changes in the production rate are environmental processes (potentially linked to climate change) that can lead to changes in flowering time in the long-term due to selection. In contrast, biomass loss (due to, for example, herbivory or diseases) can have profound consequences for plant mass production and food security. We model the effects of these environmental processes on the flowering time evolutionarily stable strategy (ESS) of annual plants and the potential consequences for reproductive output. Our model recapitulates previous theoretical results linked to climate change and light competition and makes novel predictions about the effects of biomass loss on the evolution of flowering time. Our analysis elucidates how both the magnitude and direction of the evolutionary response can depend on whether biomass loss occurs during the earlier vegetative phase or during the later reproductive phase and on whether or not plants are adapted to grow in dense, competitive environments. Specifically, light competition generates an asymetric effect of mass loss on flowering time even when loss is indiscriminate (equal rates), with vegetative mass loss having a stronger effect on flowering time (resulting in greater ESS change) and final reproductive output.Flowering time is an important phenological trait in plants. We explore the effects of growth season changes and biomass loss on the evolution of flowering time in annual plants and the potential consequences for biomass production.image


agriculture; flowering time; global warming; phenology; plant growth

Published in

Ecology and Evolution
2024, Volume: 14, number: 4, article number: e11294
Publisher: WILEY

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Evolutionary Biology

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