Effect of growth temperature on photosynthetic capacity and respiration in three ecotypes of Eriophorum vaginatum. Academic Article uri icon


  • Ecotypic differentiation in the tussock-forming sedge Eriophorum vaginatum has led to the development of populations that are locally adapted to climate in Alaska's moist tussock tundra. As a foundation species, E. vaginatum plays a central role in providing topographic and microclimatic variation essential to these ecosystems, but a changing climate could diminish the importance of this species. As Arctic temperatures have increased, there is evidence of adaptational lag in E. vaginatum, as locally adapted ecotypes now exhibit reduced population growth rates. Whether there is a physiological underpinning to adaptational lag is unknown. Accordingly, this possibility was investigated in reciprocal transplant gardens. Tussocks of E. vaginatum from sites separated by ~1° latitude (Coldfoot: 67°15'N, Toolik Lake: 68°37', Sagwon: 69°25') were transplanted into the Toolik Lake and Sagwon sites and exposed to either an ambient or an experimental warming treatment. Five tussocks pertreatment combination were measured at each garden to determine photosynthetic capacity (i.e., Vcmax and Jmax) and dark respiration rate (Rd) at measurement temperatures of 15, 20, and 25°C. Photosynthetic enhancements or homeostasis were observed for all ecotypes at both gardens under increased growth temperature, indicating no negative effect of elevated temperature on photosynthetic capacity. Further, no evidence of thermal acclimation in Rd was observed for any ecotype, and there was little evidence of ecotypic variation in Rd. As such, no physiological contribution to adaptational lag was observed given the increase in growth temperature (up to ~2°C) provided by this study. Despite neutral to positive effects of increased growth temperature on photosynthesis in E. vaginatum, it appears to confer no lasting advantage to the species.

publication date

  • April 2018