Germination, Establishment and Phenotypic Plasticity of Alpine Species

Germination, Establishment and Phenotypic Plasticity of Alpine Species

University of Innsbruck, Institute of Botany

Vera Margreiter

Supervisors: Brigitta Erschbamer, Andrea Mondoni

An upward-shift of plant species from lower to higher altitudes has been recorded in European mountain regions since several years ( These shifts include species that occur more frequently over the years (increasing species), species that occur less frequently over the years (decreasing species), and species that remained constant over the years and occur along a broad ecological niche (ubiquitous species).

As increasing species are invading from lower altitudes, one question is, if and how they can establish in higher altitudes. For establishing in changing environments, a good germination and recruitment ability is required.

Under increasing temperatures and decreasing precipitation, species able to adapt to these conditions will have a major advantage compared to species, which lack phenotypic plasticity and/or which are adapted to very specific environmental conditions. Species from high altitudes may therefore be losers of climate change.

In this project, effects of altitude, soil composition, presence of established species, and provenance of the seeds of the target species will be studied. The project includes experiments in the field along an altitudinal gradient, germination in growth chambers and in the common garden, covering three major topics:

.I Germination and survival of species at home sites vs. new sites, testing the effects of facilitation, below ground competition, species group and reproductive mode along an altitudinal gradient;

  • Field Experiment in the Inner Ötz Valley, Austria


.II Effects of provenances and phenotypic aspects of the genus Saxifraga;

  • Common Garden Experiment at the Botanical Garden in Innsbruck


.III Seed traits and germination dynamics of alpine-nival species.

  • Growth Chambers at the Institute of Botany in Innsbruck