Plasticity as a plastic response: how submergence-induced leaf elongation in Rumex palustris depends on light and nutrient availability in its early life stage
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- •Plants may experience different environmental cues throughout their development which interact in determining their phenotype. This paper tests the hypothesis that environmental conditions experienced early during ontogeny affect the phenotypic response to subsequent environmental cues.
- •This hypothesis was tested by exposing different accessions of Rumex palustris to different light and nutrient conditions, followed by subsequent complete submergence.
- •Final leaf length and submergence-induced plasticity were affected by the environmental conditions experienced at early developmental stages. In developmentally older leaves, submergence-induced elongation was lower in plants previously subjected to high-light conditions. Submergence-induced elongation of developmentally younger leaves, however, was larger when pregrown in high light. High-light and low-nutrient conditions led to an increase of nonstructural carbohydrates in the plants. There was a positive correlation between submergence-induced leaf elongation and carbohydrate concentration and content in roots and shoots, but not with root and shoot biomass before submergence.
- •These results show that conditions experienced by young plants modulate the responses to subsequent environmental conditions, in both magnitude and direction. Internal resource status interacts with cues perceived at different developmental stages in determining plastic responses to the environment.