Working Group

Germination, trait coevolution, and niche limits in changing environments

PI(s): Kathleen Donohue (Duke University)
Rafael F Rubio de Casas (Duke University)
Start Date: 1-Nov-2009
End Date: 31-Oct-2011

When a seed germinates determines the seasonal environment experienced by a plant throughout its life, and germination phenology is one of the very first phenotypes expressed by plants during ontogeny. As such, germination phenology is subject to extremely strong natural selection, especially during early stages of adaptation. Moreover, germination co-evolves with seed dispersal, mating system, and reproductive strategy to determine plant life cycles and demographic dynamics of plant populations. This working group will test the importance of germination adaptations in delimiting species niche and range limits, both in the past and in response to changed environments. More generally, this topic pertains to the identification of key traits associated with adaptation to environmental change, and the role that early life-stage traits and traits associated with habitat selection contribute to these dynamics. The focus on germination provides a clear and tractable system for addressing general evolutionary and ecological questions concerning the interactions between ontogeny and adaptation, trait coevolution, and the roles of habitat selection and organismal responses to their environment in niche evolution. It also will contribute tangibly to efforts to predict plant responses to environmental change. The group will compile and analyze a comprehensive data set on germination and dormancy, combined with data on niche breadth, geographic range, and life history, in order to test hypotheses concerning trait coevolution and species range limits. The group will also theoretically explore interactions between ontogeny and adaptation, theoretically model trait coevolution via habitat selection and bet hedging, and develop phenological models of integrated life histories that include germination in order to predict plant responses to environmental change.

Related products

PublicationsProposals and Grants
  • K. Donohue, J. Schmitt, PIs; Amity Wilczek Co-PI. 2010-2014. Collaborative research: Integrating genetically informed models of germination and flowering to predict life history responses to changing climate” NSF-DEB
  • Kathleen Donohue (Plenary Speaker), June 2010, "Interactions across seed and adult life stages: ecological and evolutionary consequences," Seed Ecology III Meetings, Salt Lake City, Utah