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Understanding the basis of plant population responses to environmental change: An Environmental Metabolomics Approach.

George, Rachel (2015) Understanding the basis of plant population responses to environmental change: An Environmental Metabolomics Approach. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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In this current era of anthropogenic climate change there is a growing need to predict the ability of species and communities to persist under future climate scenarios and land-use regimes. Understanding the mechanisms underpinning interactions between plants and environmental variation is key to this. To elucidate the importance of plant response mechanisms, an environmental metabolomics approach was applied to assesses the interaction between environment and plants in the metabolic phenotype. Phenotypic traits (phenology, productivity and reproductive) varied significantly between populations in a number of species, under the absence of environmental variation. Many of the trait patterns had a genetic basis, though the importance of environmental maternal effects was also highlighted. Metabolically fingerprinting five species of winter annual plants showed that species living together in a community have distinct metabolic phenotypes. While it could be expected that plants growing together in a community would share similar traits because they respond to the same environmental stimuli, this work highlights that species are fulfilling different metabolic niches within this community. Analysis of metabolic trait variation between populations growing under standard environmental conditions elicited species-specific responses. Variation in traits between populations related to variation in environmental conditions, highlighting that some species may adapted to local climates metabolically. Contrasting patterns of intra-specific metabolic variation suggested that plant responses such as phenotypic plasticity to environmental variation could play a key role in the control of metabolism. Plants growing in their natural habitat represent a valuable resource for elucidating mechanisms of acclimation to environmental constraints. Metabolic variation of field samples could not be detected at small spatial scales encapsulating habitat heterogeneity. Metabolic differences could be detected at larger scales, such as the population level, though regional scales showed the largest metabolic variation.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Science (Sheffield) > Animal and Plant Sciences (Sheffield)
The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Science (Sheffield)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.675066
Depositing User: Miss Rachel George
Date Deposited: 10 Dec 2015 10:38
Last Modified: 03 Oct 2016 12:19
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/10777

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