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Cousins, Elsa A [1], Sternick, Sara [2], Stinson, Kristina [3].

Shifts in morphology and phytochemical production of mustard plant Thlaspi arvense in response to water stress in a greenhouse setting.

Mustard plants produce a suite of defensive chemicals that can alter plant and microbe functioning called glucosinolates. This study investigates the effects of water stress on non-native mustard plant Thlaspi arvense morphology, reproduction and glucosinolate production. T. arvense is a plant of Eurasian origin that is now found throughout the contiguous United States and has started to expand its range into subalpine meadow ecosystems in Colorado. We conducted a greenhouse experiment with seeds sourced from two populations of T. arvense plants at low and high elevation subalpine meadows. We predicted that with localized population adaptation, the later snowmelt at higher elevations contributes towards a wetter overall environment and subsequent lower tolerance for water stress in those populations. Plants were exposed to either a consistent watering schedule (control) or deprived of water for 10 days during early growth (water stress treatment). We measured morphological traits of all experimental plants at rosette, flowering, and harvest, and we used high performance liquid chromatography to quantify foliar singrin content, the primary glucosinolate produced by T. arvense, of a subset of plants from both treatments. Our analysis showed significant differences in various morphological traits between populations, between treatments, and in the population responses to the water stress treatment. The results suggest that plants sourced from the lower elevation site were less affected by water stress than plants sourced from the higher elevation site, potentially showing local adaptation to the prolonged water stress that occurs at lower elevations. Both populations produced higher concentrations of glucosinolates in response to the water stress treatment, indicating that this stress response may be maintained across populations. We conclude that the potential to produce higher quantities of defensive chemicals in response to environmental stressors may improve this species competitive ability and likelihood of continued range expansion.

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1 - University of Massachusetts Amherst, Environmental Conservation
2 - University of Massachusetts Amherst
3 - 160 Holdsworth Way, Environmental Conservation, Amherst, MA, 01003, United States

Plant Chemistry
greenhouse study
invasive plants.

Presentation Type: Oral Paper
Session: ECO5, Ecology: Stress
Location: /
Date: Thursday, July 22nd, 2021
Time: 2:15 PM(EDT)
Number: ECO5008
Abstract ID:730
Candidate for Awards:None

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