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Phenological and fitness responses to climate warming depend upon genotype and competitive neighbourhood in Arabidopsis thaliana


Increasing temperatures during climate change are known to alter the phenology across diverse plant taxa, but the evolutionary outcomes of these shifts are poorly understood. Moreover, plant temperature-sensing pathways are known to interact with competition-sensing pathways, yet there remains little experimental evidence for how genotypes varying in temperature responsiveness react to warming in realistic competitive settings. We compared flowering time and fitness responses to warming and competition for two near-isogenic lines (NILs) of Arabidopsis thaliana transgressively segregating temperature-sensitive and temperature-insensitive alleles for major-effect flowering time genes. We grew focal plants of each genotype in intraspecific and interspecific competition in four treatments contrasting daily temperature profiles in summer and fall under contemporary and warmed conditions. We measured phenology and fitness of focal plants to quantify plastic responses to season, temperature and competition and the dependence of these responses on flowering time genotype. The temperature-insensitive NIL was constitutively early flowering and less fit, except in a future-summer climate in which its fitness was higher than the later flowering, temperature-sensitive NIL in low competition. The late-flowering NIL showed accelerated flowering in response to intragenotypic competition and to increased temperature in the summer but delayed flowering in the fall. However, its fitness fell with rising temperatures in both seasons, and in the fall its marginal fitness gain from decreasing competition was diminished in the future. Functional alleles at temperature-responsive genes were necessary for plastic responses to season, warming and competition. However, the plastic genotype was not the most fit in every experimental condition, becoming less fit than the temperature-canalized genotype in the warm summer treatment. Climate change is often predicted to have deleterious effects on plant populations, and our results show how increased temperatures can act through genotype-dependent phenology to decrease fitness. Furthermore, plasticity is not necessarily adaptive in rapidly changing environments since a nonplastic genotype proved fitter than a plastic genotype in a warming climate treatment. A plain language summary is available for this article.

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