Timing of flower development and phenological plasticity in high-mountain plants

Timing of flower development and phenological plasticity in high-mountain plants

The developmental program of each plant species is genetically fixed, onset and length of the different developmental phases, however, are additionally affected by environmental conditions. In most mountain plants, floral development is initiated one year prior to anthesis. The earlier floral development starts, the further developed flower buds enter winter. Only few species start flower development after winter snow-melt and thus pass the full reproductive cycle within one growing season. Different factors may affect the date of flowering.
(1) In high mountains, the growing season starts with the melting of the winter snow pack.
It is assumed that the timing of the prefloral development is the main reason for the broad spectrum of flowering times shown by the different plant species at the same site under the same climatic conditions.
(2)  The date of snowmelt is variable and can differ by several weeks among sites and years. The capability to cope with large shifts in the timing of flowering may differ among plant species.
And (3), flower development may additionally be triggered by day-length.

Ongoing research on selected plant species should answer the following questions:

  • Are there correlations between the species-specific timing of floral development and phenological phase entry dates?
  • Are there differences in the speed of floral development among plant species under the same site conditions?
  • What is the degree of phenological plasticity in the investigated plant species at different starting days of the growing season?
  • What effect does day-length have on the date of flowering?

Funding
Doctorate scholarship, University of Innsbruck

Personnel involved
Stephanie Widmann  MSc. (Doctoral Thesis)
Johanna Wagner

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