Phenotypic plasticity: a useful framework for understanding adaptation in forest species

M. R. Chambel, J. Climent, R. Alia, F. Valladares


Phenotypic plasticity is a relatively new name for a very old issue in plant sciences: the ability of a genotype to generate a range of different phenotypes, depending on the environment. Contrasting with a great deal of published research works recognising plastic responses in a wide variety of organisms, direct evidences of the adaptive role of such responses are still scarce and the evolutionary implications of phenotypic plasticity is under discussion. Different types of plasticity, operating at different levels within individuals or across generations have been recognised and several methodologies have been applied to characterize and quantify plasticity. Further research on this issue regarding forest tree species, especially in Mediterranean ecosystems is needed in order to understand the impact that global climate change may have on the existing populations.


Phenotypic flexibility; Developmental plasticity; Cross-generational plasticity; Ontogeny; AMMI models; Stressful environments; Forest management

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DOI: 10.5424/srf/2005143-00924