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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal American journal of botany
Volume (Issue) 102(8)
Page(s) 1371 - 9
Title of proceedings American journal of botany
DOI 10.3732/ajb.1400518


• Because not all plant species will be able to move in response to global warming, adaptive evolution matters largely for plant persistence. As prerequisites for adaptive evolution, genetic variation in and selection on phenotypic traits are needed, but these aspects have not been studied in tropical species. We studied how plants respond to transplantation to different elevations on Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, and whether there is quantitative genetic (among-seed family) variation in and selection on life-history traits and their phenotypic plasticity to the different environments.• We reciprocally transplanted seed families of 15 common tropical, herbaceous species of the montane and savanna vegetation zone at Mt. Kilimanjaro to a watered experimental garden in the montane (1450 m) and in the savanna (880 m) zone at the mountain's slope and measured performance, reproductive, and phenological traits.• Plants generally performed worse in the savanna garden, indicating that the savanna climate was more stressful and thus that plants may suffer from future climate warming. We found significant quantitative genetic variation in all measured performance and reproductive traits in both gardens and for several measures of phenotypic plasticity in response to elevational transplantation. Moreover, we found positive selection on traits at low and intermediate trait values levelling to neutral or negative selection at high values.• We conclude that common plants at Mt. Kilimanjaro express quantitative genetic variation in fitness-relevant traits and in their plasticities, suggesting potential to adapt evolutionarily to future climate warming and increased temperature variability.