• annual;
  • genetic correlation;
  • life-history evolution;
  • perennial;
  • resource allocation;
  • tradeoff;
  • water availability


Investment in reproduction and growth represent a classic tradeoff with implication for life history evolution. The local environment can play a major role in the magnitude and evolutionary consequences of such a tradeoff. Here, we examined the investment in reproductive and vegetative tissue in 40 maternal half-sib families from four different populations of the herb Plantago coronopus growing in either a dry or wet greenhouse environment. Plants originated from populations with an annual or a perennial life form, with annuals prevailing in drier habitats with greater seasonal variation in both temperature and precipitation. We found that water availability affected the expression of the tradeoff (both phenotypic and genetic) between reproduction and growth, being most accentuated under dry condition. However, populations responded very differently to water treatments. Plants from annual populations showed a similar response to drought condition with little variation among maternal families, suggesting a history of selection favouring genotypes with high allocation to reproduction when water availability is low. Plants from annual populations also expressed the highest level of plasticity. For the perennial populations, one showed a large variation among maternal families in resource allocation and expressed significant negative genetic correlations between reproductive and vegetative biomass under drought. The other perennial population showed less variation in response to treatment and had trait values similar to those of the annuals, although it was significantly less plastic. We stress the importance of considering intraspecific variation in response to environmental change such as drought, as conspecific plants exhibited very different abilities and strategies to respond to high versus low water availability even among geographically close populations.