Seed source environment predicts response to water availability in Plantago patagonica

Zoë Klein, Rachel M. Mitchell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The intensity, duration, and severity of drought increasing across the American Southwest. Plant restoration efforts are often thwarted by drought-induced effects (i.e. drought-induced mortality or failure to reproduce). Careful selection of plant materials to match future environmental conditions could improve restoration success under climate change. Here, we focus on Plantago patagonica, a priority arid land restoration species in the southwestern US. Using experimental drought in a greenhouse and supplemental watering in a common garden experiment, we quantified how the seed-collection site environment influenced plant growth, performance, phenotypic plasticity, and evidence of local adaptation in 12 populations of P. patagonica. In the greenhouse, we found plants from hotter and drier environments had higher root:shoot ratios, while those from more variable precipitation regimes had greater total biomass in response to drought. Populations sourced from warmer environments exhibited sevenfold greater plasticity in root:shoot ratio compared to those from cooler environments, and there was strong evidence for local adaptation in phenology, as populations sourced from geographic locations nearer the common garden exhibited five times more flowering individuals than those sourced furthest from that garden. In the common garden, we found that plants sourced from wetter locations and those with more consistent precipitation regimes had lower mortality and higher specific leaf area, a proxy for growth, under unwatered ambient conditions. These results suggest plant performance of P. patagonica under reduced water availability is strongly shaped by the seed-collection site environment and may be a useful tool for improving restoration outcomes in a changing world.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere14002
JournalRestoration Ecology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2024
Externally publishedYes


  • Plantago patagonica
  • arid lands
  • common garden
  • drought
  • greenhouse
  • plant traits

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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