A common thermal niche among geographically diverse populations of the widely distributed tree species Eucalyptus tereticornis: No evidence for adaptation to climate-of-origin

John E. Drake, Angelica Vårhammar, Dushan Kumarathunge, Belinda E. Medlyn, Sebastian Pfautsch, Peter B. Reich, David T. Tissue, Oula Ghannoum, Mark G. Tjoelker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Impacts of climate warming depend on the degree to which plants are constrained by adaptation to their climate-of-origin or exhibit broad climatic suitability. We grew cool-origin, central and warm-origin provenances of Eucalyptus tereticornis in an array of common temperature environments from 18 to 35.5°C to determine if this widely distributed tree species consists of geographically contrasting provenances with differentiated and narrow thermal niches, or if provenances share a common thermal niche. The temperature responses of photosynthesis, respiration, and growth were equivalent across the three provenances, reflecting a common thermal niche despite a 2,200 km geographic distance and 13°C difference in mean annual temperature at seed origin. The temperature dependence of growth was primarily mediated by changes in leaf area per unit plant mass, photosynthesis, and whole-plant respiration. Thermal acclimation of leaf, stem, and root respiration moderated the increase in respiration with temperature, but acclimation was constrained at high temperatures. We conclude that this species consists of provenances that are not differentiated in their thermal responses, thus rejecting our hypothesis of adaptation to climate-of-origin and suggesting a shared thermal niche. In addition, growth declines with warming above the temperature optima were driven by reductions in whole-plant leaf area and increased respiratory carbon losses. The impacts of climate warming will nonetheless vary across the geographic range of this and other such species, depending primarily on each provenance's climate position on the temperature response curves for photosynthesis, respiration, and growth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5069-5082
Number of pages14
JournalGlobal change biology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Goran Lopaticki, Burhan Amiji, and Gavin Mckenzie (Western Sydney University; WSU) for their technical assistance with the glasshouse facility. We thank Mike Aspinwall (WSU) for his many conceptual contributions to this work. We thank Rosana López (WSU) for measuring and providing the pre-dawn leaf water potential data. This research was supported by an Australian Research Council Discovery Project grant (DP140103415) with additional support from the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment and Western Sydney University. We acknowledge the contributions of five anonymous reviewers, whose comments and criticisms improved this work.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 John Wiley & Sons Ltd


  • Eucalyptus tereticornis
  • acclimation
  • autotrophic respiration
  • climate change
  • forest red gum
  • local adaptation
  • photosynthesis
  • temperature


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