Regulation of the rate of transpiration is an important part of plants' adaptation to uncertain environments. Stomatal closure is the most common response to severe drought. By closing their stomata, plants reduce transpiration to better their odds of survival under dry conditions. Under mild to moderate drought conditions, there are several possible transpiration patterns that balance the risk of lost productivity with the risk of water loss. Here, we hypothesize that plant ecotypes that have evolved in environments characterized by unstable patterns of precipitation will display a wider range of patterns of transpiration regulation along with other quantitative physiological traits (QPTs), compared to ecotypes from less variable environments. We examined five accessions of wild barley (Hordeum vulgare ssp. spontaneum) from different locations in Israel (the B1K collection) with annual rainfall levels ranging from 100 to 900 mm, along with one domesticated line (cv. Morex). We measured several QPTs and morphological traits of these accessions under well-irrigated conditions, under drought stress and during recovery from drought. Our results revealed a correlation between precipitation-certainty conditions and QPT plasticity. Specifically, accessions from stable environments (very wet or very dry locations) were found to take greater risks in their water-balance regulation than accessions from areas in which rainfall is less predictable. Notably, less risk-taking genotypes recovered more quickly than more risk-taking ones once irrigation was resumed. We discuss the relationships between environment, polymorphism, physiological plasticity and fitness, and suggest a general risk-taking model in which transpiration-rate plasticity is negatively correlated with population polymorphism.
Bibliographical notePublisher Copyright:
© 2018 Scandinavian Plant Physiology Society