“Life history traits evolved jointly with climatic niche and disturbance regime in the genus Leucadendron (Proteaceae)”

Posted on

Jeanne Tonnabel, Frank M. Schurr, Florian Boucher, Wilfried Thuiller, Julien Renaud, Emmanuel J. P. Douzery, and Ophélie Ronce (Feb 2018)

The DOI is http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/695283

Serotinous female plant of Leucadendron rubrum (Proteaceae).
(Credit: Jeanne Tonnabel)


Organisms have evolved a diversity of life history strategies to cope with variation in their environment. Persistence as adults and/or seeds across recruitment events allows species to dampen the effects of environmental fluctuations. The evolution of life cycles with overlapping generations should thus permit the colonization of environments with uncertain recruitment. We tested this hypothesis in Leucadendron (Proteaceae), a genus with high functional diversity native to fire-prone habitats in the South African fynbos. We analyzed the joint evolution of life history traits (adult survival and seed bank strategies) and ecological niches (climate and fire regime) using comparative methods and accounting for various sources of uncertainty. In the fynbos, species with canopy seed banks that are unable to survive fire as adults display non-overlapping generations. In contrast, resprouters with an underground seed bank may be less threatened by extreme climatic events and fire intervals given their iteroparity and long-lasting seed bank. Life cycles with non-overlapping generations indeed jointly evolved with niches with less exposure to frost, but not with less exposure to drought. Canopy seed banks jointly evolved with niches with more predictable fire return, compared to underground seed banks. The evolution of extraordinary functional diversity among fynbos plants thus reflects, at least in part, the diversity of both climates and fire regimes in this region. Read the Article