Analysing phenotypic variation in Eucalyptus pauciflora across an elevation gradient in the Australian Alps

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Giles Young
Islay Andrew
Kristi Lee
Xiaoyn Li
Rachael Robb
Isabella Robinson
Holly Sargent
Bronte Sinclair

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Abstract

Research related to the phenotypic plasticity of species that face rapidly changing conditions in the near future, such as those in the Australian Alps, is extremely important for ecological conservation efforts. Eucalyptus pauciflora is a species found throughout much of the Australian Alps. In this paper, the phenotypic plasticity exhibited by the species in terms of tree height and leaves across an elevation gradient was studied to gain insight into how the species is able to survive in such a range of conditions. Height and leaf size decreased with elevation, chlorophyll content (a measure of photosynthetic potential) increased, while specific leaf area (indicative of investment in photosynthesis and growth) and leaf dry matter content (indicative of investment in structural strength) showed no significant trends across the elevation range. These results give insight into the phenotypic plasticity of E. pauciflora, and provide information on how the ecosystem may respond to climate change in the future.

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