Extensive variation, but not local adaptation in an Australian alpine daisy.
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.2294
Alpine plants often occupy diverse habitats within a similar elevation range, but most research on local adaptation in these plants has focused on elevation gradients. In testing for habitat-related local adaptation, local effects on seed quality and initial plant growth should be considered in designs that encompass multiple populations and habitats. We tested for local adaptation across alpine habitats in a morphologically variable daisy species, Brachyscome decipiens, in the Bogong High Plains in Victoria, Australia. We collected seed from different habitats, controlled for maternal effects through initial seed size estimates, and characterized seedling survival and growth in a field transplant experiment. We found little evidence for local adaptation for survival or plant size, based on three adaptation measures: Home versus Away, Local versus Foreign, and Sympatric versus Allopatric (SA). The SA measure controlled for planting site and population (site-of-origin) effects. There were significant differences due to site-of-origin and planting site effects. An important confounding factor was the size of plants directly after transplantation of seedlings, which had a large impact on subsequent seedling survival and growth. Initial differences in plant width and height influenced subsequent survival across the growing season but in opposing directions: wide plants had higher survival, but tall plants had lower survival. In an additional controlled garden experiment at Cranbourne Royal Botanic Gardens, site-of-origin effects detected in the field experiments disappeared under more benign homogeneous conditions. Although B. decipiens from different source areas varied significantly when grown across a range of alpine habitats, these differences did not translate into a local or habitat-related fitness advantage. This lack of local advantage may signal weak past selection, and/or weak adaptive transgeneration (plasticity) effects.