Strong ecological but weak evolutionary effects of elevated CO2 on a recombinant inbred population of Arabidopsis thaliana


Author for correspondence: Peter Tiffin Tel: +1 612 624 7406 Fax: +1 612 625 1738 Email:


  • • Increases in atmospheric CO2 concentration have an impact on plant communities by influencing plant growth and morphology, species interactions, and ecosystem processes. These ecological effects may be accompanied by evolutionary change if elevated CO2 (eCO2) alters patterns of natural selection or expression of genetic variation.
  • • Here, a statistically powerful quantitative genetic experiment and manipulations of CO2 concentrations in a field setting were used to investigate how eCO2 impacts patterns of selection on ecologically important traits in Arabidopsis thaliana; heritabilities, which influence the rate of response to selection; and genetic covariances between traits, which may constrain responses to selection.
  • • CO2 had strong phenotypic effects; plants grown in eCO2 were taller and produced more biomass and fruits. Also, significant directional selection was observed on many traits and significant genetic variation was observed for all traits. However, no evolutionary effect of eCO2 was detected; patterns of selection, heritabilities and genetic correlations corresponded closely in ambient and elevated CO2 environments.
  • • The data suggest that patterns of natural selection and the quantitative genetic parameters of this A. thaliana population are robust to increases in CO2 concentration and that responses to eCO2 will be primarily ecological.