The spatial variation of Scarlet Gilia leaf traits in Gothic, Colorado according to soil moisture and snow depth
Global warming threatens the distribution of water in montane ecosystems by causing snowmelt earlier in the year and drought later in the year. The disruption of the yearly water cycle in the Rocky Mountains is a potential concern for plants like Scarlet Gilia who may not have traits equipped for climate change. This study analyzed how soil moisture and snow depth correlates with leaf traits of Scarlet Gilia, Ipomopsis aggregata, across and within seven populations in the Crested Butte and Gothic, Colorado area. Earlier snowmelt due to global warming is potentially affecting leaf traits that aid in photosynthesis. We expected that Scarlet Gilia plants with low water availability to have leaf traits that more efficiently photosynthesize and conserve water. Variation in soil moisture within sites had weak or no effects on the leaf traits, except that stomatal density increased with soil moisture in sites that also had low snowpack. Sites with lower snow depth had lower leaf water content, lower specific leaf area (SLA), and trichome density but showed no average change in stomatal density and diameter. The variation across sites in leaf water content, SLA, and trichome density could be attributed to aiding less transpiration in areas where there is drought-stress.
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