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Rapid adaptive evolution to drought in a subset of plant traits in a large-scale climate change experiment
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  • Johannes Metz,
  • Christian Lampei,
  • Laura Bäumler,
  • Herve Bocherens,
  • Hannes Dittberner,
  • Lorenz Henneberg,
  • Juliette de Meaux,
  • Katja Tielbörger
Johannes Metz
Universität Hildesheim

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Christian Lampei
University of Münster
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Laura Bäumler
University of Tübingen
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Herve Bocherens
University of Tübingen
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Hannes Dittberner
University of Cologne
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Lorenz Henneberg
University of Tübingen
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Juliette de Meaux
Universitat zu Koln Mathematisch-Naturwissenschaftliche Fakultat
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Katja Tielbörger
University of Tuebingen, Institute of Botany
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Rapid evolution of traits and of plasticity may enable adaptation to climate change, yet solid experimental evidence under natural conditions is scarce. Here, we imposed rainfall manipulations (+30%, control, -30%) for ten years on entire natural plant communities in two Eastern Mediterranean sites. Additional sites along a natural rainfall gradient and controlled selection analyses assessed whether potential responses were adaptive. In both sites, our annual target species Biscutella didyma consistently evolved earlier phenology and higher reproductive allocation in dry plots. This response was adaptive, as it aligned with theory, corresponding trait shifts along the natural rainfall gradient, and selection analyses under differential watering in the greenhouse. However, another seven candidate traits did not evolve, and there was little support for evolution of plasticity. Our results provide compelling evidence for rapid adaptive evolution under climate change; yet, they also call attention to potential constraints for full adaptation.