The effect of elevational gradient on alpine gingers (Roscoea alpina and R. purpurea) in the Himalayas

PeerJ. 2019 Sep 17:7:e7503. doi: 10.7717/peerj.7503. eCollection 2019.

Abstract

There is currently enormous interest in how morphological and physiological responses of herbaceous plants may be affected by changing elevational gradient. Mountain regions provide an excellent opportunity to understand how closely related species may adapt to the conditions that rapidly change with elevation. We investigated the morphological and physiological responses of two Himalayan alpine gingers (Roscoea alpina and R. purpurea) along two different vertical transects of 400 m, R. purpurea between 2,174-2,574 m a.s.l and R. alpina between 2,675-3,079 m a.s.l. We measured the variables of plant height, leaf length, leaf area, specific leaf area, and stomata density at five plots, along the vertical transect at an elevational gap of ca. 100 m. Results revealed that with increased elevation plant height, and leaf area decreased while stomata density increased, whereas changes in specific leaf area, were not correlated with the elevation. Our results reveal that these alpine gingers undergo local adaptation by modifying their plant height, leaf area and stomata density in response to the varying selection pressure associated with the elevational gradient. Thus, the findings of this research provide valuable information on how a narrow range of elevational gradient affects the herbaceous plants at the alpine habitat of the Himalayas.

Keywords: Alpine-herbs; Elevational gradient; Local adaptation; Morphology; Physiology.

Grants and funding

This work was supported by the Australian Research Council Discovery Projects funding scheme DP160100161 to Adrian G Dyer. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.