Evolutionary changes in correlations among functional traits in Ceanothus in response to Mediterranean conditions
Ceanothus is a widely speciated genus with two sections that differ markedly in size, patterns of biomass allocation and reproductive strategies. On greenhouse-grown seedlings we tested whether divergence occurred in single traits or in suites of traits, and whether taxonomic affinity or the ability to fix nitrogen (N) influenced the relationships among functional traits. Species of the subgenus Cerastes differed from species in the subgenus Ceanothus in the following characteristics: reproduction by seed rather than primarily resprouting, high rates of photosynthesis and high stomatal conductance, thick leaves, low root allocation, and high leaf allocation. Correlations of traits across the entire genus showed positive correlations among traits that maximize photosynthesis and tradeoffs between root allocation and carbon gain patterns frequently observed in other broad taxonomic comparisons. Trait correlations differed between the two subgenera (divergence in allocation-photosynthesis tradeoffs in Ceanothus and divergence of growth-related traits in Cerastes). Similarly, N-fixers, which were distributed broadly between the two subgenera, differed in trait correlations (primarily among traits related to photosynthesis) from non-fixers (primarily among traits related to growth and allocation). These results indicate that 1) divergence in genus Ceanothus was associated with changes in entire suite of traits, rather than independent changes in individual traits and 2) evolution occurring under different environmental or nutritional circumstances alters the suites of traits exhibited by plants.