Functional Plant Biology Functional Plant Biology Society
Plant function and evolutionary biology

Correlations Between Carbon Isotope Discrimination and Climate of Native Habitats for Diverse Eucalypt Taxa Growing in a Common Garden

JE Anderson, J Williams, PE Kriedemann, MP Austin and GD Farquhar

Australian Journal of Plant Physiology 23(3) 311 - 320
Published: 1996


Distributions of common species of Eucalyptus in south-eastem Australia are related to gradients in temperature and rainfall. To determine whether intrinsic water-use efficiency (as indexed by carbon isotope discrimination, Δ) or other leaf attributes were related to climate of native habitats, we sampled 17 populations representing 14 species of Eucalyptus growing in a common garden in south- central New South Wales. Phreatophytes were clearly distinguished from populations that are totally dependent upon soil moisture derived from rainfall by having higher Δ at a particular level of rainfall. Among 12 non-phreatophytic populations (11 species), Δ was positively correlated with mean annual precipitation (r = 0.75, P = 0.005), December-March precipitation (r = 0.79, P = 0.002), an index of annual soil moisture (r = 0.81, P = 0.001) and seasonality of precipitation (r = 0.85, P < 0.001). There were similarly strong but negative correlations between Δ and potential evaporation during the summer months, but Δ was not correlated with annual potential evaporation of the source sites. Leaf mass per unit area (ρe) was negatively correlated with indices of water availability, positively correlated with nitrogen per unit leaf area (r = 0.90, P < 0.001), and negatively correlated with Δ (r = -0.73, P = 0.007). A was negatively correlated with area-based leaf nitrogen (r = -0.79, P = 0.002). These complementary correlations among Δ, ρe, and nitrogen per unit leaf area indicate that variation in Δ may stem largely from variation in photosynthetic capacity. The results provide strong evidence that variation in Δ and ρe reflect genetic adaptations to native habitats.

© CSIRO 1996

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