Geographically separated populations of Plantago major L. differ in ozone resistance, and this is correlated with the exposure to ozone at the location of each population. In addition, two populations of P. major have been demonstrated to show an increase in ozone resistance after summers when ozone concentrations were high. However, if evolution of ozone resistance has occurred in the field there must be appropriate heritable genetic variation and this must be demonstrated.
In the present study, artificial selection for ozone resistance and sensitivity was imposed on a resistant (‘Lullington Heath’) and sensitive (‘Bush’) population of P. major. Artificial selection is an efficient means of demonstrating additive genetic variance for a character. Selection was based on 2 wk growth in ozone (70 nl O3 1−1for 7 h d−1), and selected lines were tested for ozone resistance under both short and long term ozone exposures. Changes in ozone resistance were demonstrated for each population. On the basis of a 2-wk screening test, selection from the initially sensitive Bush population led to a line that was significantly more resistant to ozone, but it was not possible to select a line with greater sensitivity than the original population. Conversely, selection from the initially resistant Lullington Heath population led to a line with increased sensitivity but not to a line with increased resistance. Differences in ozone resistance between the selected lines were maintained over the long term and were reflected in growth and seed production at the final harvest. Net assimilation rate, stomatal conductance and leaf pigments were measured. In both populations the lines selected for sensitivity showed a greater effect of ozone on net assimilation rate. Ozone had a minor effect on chlorophyll content in the Lullington Heath sensitive line but tended to increase carotenoid concentrations. However, this effect on carotenoids was not related to ozone resistance.
The experiment demonstrated that ozone resistance in P. major is heritable. The response to selection reported here supports previous evidence from field collections of a rapid evolution of ozone resistance.