There is increasing evidence that species can evolve rapidly in response to environmental change. However, although land use is one of the key drivers of current environmental change, studies of its evolutionary consequences are still fairly scarce, in particular studies that examine land-use effects across large numbers of populations, and discriminate between different aspects of land use. Here, we investigated genetic differentiation in relation to land use in the annual grass Bromus hordeaceus. A common garden study with offspring from 51 populations from three regions and a broad range of land-use types and intensities showed that there was indeed systematic population differentiation of ecologically important plant traits in relation to land use, in particular due to increasing mowing and grazing intensities. We also found strong land-use-related genetic differentiation in plant phenology, where the onset of flowering consistently shifted away from the typical time of management. In addition, increased grazing intensity significantly increased the genetic variability within populations. Our study suggests that land use can cause considerable genetic differentiation among plant populations, and that the timing of land use may select for phenological escape strategies, particularly in monocarpic plant species.
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