Rapid changes in plasticity across generations within an expanding cedar forest


François Lefèvre, INRA, UR629 Ecologie des Forêts Méditerranéennes, URFM, Domaine Saint Paul Site Agroparc, F-84914 Avignon Cedex 9, France.
Tel.: +33 4 32 72 29 01; fax: +33 4 32 72 29 02; e-mail: lefevre@avignon.inra.fr


We investigated the inter-individual variation of phenotypic plasticity and its evolution across three generations within an expanding forest. Plasticity was assessed in situ from dendrochronological data as the response of radial growth to summer rainfall. A linear mixed model was used to account for spatial effects (environment and stand structure), temporal factors (stand dynamics) and the variation with age. Beyond these effects, our results reveal a significant inter-individual variance of growth and plasticity within each generation. We also show that the mean values and variances of growth and plasticity changed significantly across generations, with different patterns for both traits. The possible environmental and genetic drivers of these changes are discussed. Contrasting with the trade-off between stress tolerance and plasticity generally observed among populations, we detected a positive covariance at the individual level, which does not support the cost of plasticity hypothesis in this case.