Predicting effects of warming requires a whole-of-life cycle perspective: A case study in the alpine herb Oreomyrrhis eriopoda

Annisa Satyanti, Toton Liantoro, Morgan Thomas, Teresa Neeman, Adrienne B. Nicotra*, Lydia K. Guja

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    3 Citations (Scopus)


    Global warming is affecting plant phenology, growth and reproduction in complex ways and is particularly apparent in vulnerable alpine environments. Warming affects reproductive and vegetative traits, as well as phenology, but seldom do studies assess these traits in concert and across the whole of a plant's life cycle, particularly in wild species. Thus, it is difficult to extrapolate from such effects to predictions about the persistence of species or their conservation and management. We assessed trait variation in response to warming in Oreomyrrhis eriopoda, an Australian native montane herb, in which populations vary in germination strategy (degree of dormancy) and growth characteristics as a function of ecological factors. Warming accelerated growth in the early stages of development, particularly for populations with non-dormant seed. The differences in growth disappeared at the transition to reproduction, when an accelerating effect on phenology emerged, to varying degrees depending on germination strategy. Overall, warming reduced flower and seed production and increased mortality, indicating a reduction in reproductive opportunities, particularly for populations with dormant seed. Developmental condition affected germination strategy of the next generation seed, leading to increased degree of dormancy and slowed germination rate. But there were no whole-scale shifts in strategy or total germination percent. Following through the life cycle reveals that warming will have some potentially positive effects (early growth rates) and some negative effects (reduced reproductive output). Ultimately, warming impacts will depend on how those effects play out in the field: early establishment and an accelerated trajectory to seed maturity may offset the tradeoff with overall seed production. Small differences among germination strategies likewise may cascade to larger effects, with important implications for persistence of species in the alpine landscape. Thus, to understand and manage the response of wild species to warming takes a whole-of-life perspective and attention to ecologically significant patterns of within-species variation.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbercoab023
    JournalConservation Physiology
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2021


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