Stress Induces Trait Variability across Multiple Spatial Scales in the Arid Annual Plant Anastatica hierochuntica

Nir Krintza, Efrat Dener, Merav Seifan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Variations in plant characteristics in response to habitat heterogeneity can provide valuable insights into the mechanisms governing plant responses to environmental conditions. In this study, we investigated the role of environmental factors associated with arid conditions in shaping the phenotypic responses of an arid annual plant, Anastatica hierochuntica, across several populations found along an aridity gradient and across multiple spatial scales. Utilizing both field surveys and a net house experiment, we assessed the effects of environmental factors on trait variability within and between populations. The results indicated a significant convergence in plant height due to site aridity, reflecting growth potential based on abiotic resources. Convergence was also observed in the plant’s electrolyte leakage with aridity and in plant height concerning soil salinity at specific sites. Phenotypic plasticity was pivotal in maintaining trait variability, with plant height plasticity increasing with soil salinity, SLA plasticity decreasing with aridity, and leaf number plasticity rising with aridity. In conclusion, our findings underscore the adaptive significance of phenotypic variability, especially plasticity, in arid conditions. Notably, trait variability and plasticity did not consistently diminish in stressful settings, emphasizing the adaptive value of flexible responses in such environments.

Original languageEnglish
Article number256
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2024


  • deserts
  • evolutionary ecology
  • functional traits
  • phenotypic plasticity
  • plant–climate interactions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Plant Science


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