Limited genetic variability and phenotypic plasticity detected for cavitation resistance in a Mediterranean pine
- Resistance to cavitation is a major determinant of plant survival under severe drought and can be used to quantify species adaptive potential. Interspecific variation in this key trait is well defined in woody species, but intraspecific variation (level and structure) resulting from standing genetic variation and phenotypic plasticity has never been determined.
- Combining for the first time in situ characterization of natural populations and two reciprocal common gardens in dry and wet sites, we estimated variance components (phenotypic, genetic, environmental, and genetic × environmental) of cavitation resistance based on 513 genotypes of a Mediterranean pine, Pinus pinaster.
- Despite the selected populations being climatically contrasted, phenotypic plasticity in resistance to cavitation remained low and was essentially attributed to family level. Between-population variation in cavitation resistance for both phenotypic and genetic variation was limited.
- These results strongly suggest that cavitation resistance is buffered against genetic and to a lesser extent environmental variation (canalization) in maritime pine. Consequently, in a drier world, the increasing drought tolerance of Pinus species might be severely constrained by the low level of cavitation resistance variation, resulting in a large-scale loss of productivity.