Within-generational and transgenerational plasticity to nutrient stress in endangered, non-endangered and invasive plants

Project Details


Phenotypic plasticity is the ability of individual genotypes to produce
different phenotypes in different environments, either within a single
generation (within-generation plasticity, WGP) or across generations
(transgenerational plasticity, TGP). TGP theory assumes elevated
offspring-tolerance towards abiotic stressors, e.g. through epigenetic
DNA methylation. High TGP plants may be ecological generalists,
low TGP plants may be restricted to narrower ecological ranges.
Whereas TGP is accepted as an important adaptation mechanism,
knowledge on aspects such as environmental factors promoting it,
and its relationship with WGP is limited.
Here we aim to explore the adaptive value of WGP and TGP
between endangered, non-endangered and invasive plant species;
tested in the framework of nutrient availability (nitrogen and
phosphorus limitation, and balanced nutrient conditions).
We hypothesise WGP and TGP potentials to be lowest in
endangered and highest in invasive species. We will evaluate
benefits and costs of TGP, and expect that TGP costs affect the
progeny-fitness, if progeny and maternal environments differ. DNA
demethylation treatments will investigate the epigenetic mechanisms
of TGP. Lastly, in a greenhouse-field study we focus on TGP in
species from natural sites differing in their N and P availability.
Our project will bridge the gap between ecological and epigenetic
research and can show in an innovative way why some plants are
endangered, non-endangered or invasive
Effective start/end date1/01/2131/12/24


  • Ecological stoichiometry
  • Plant functional traits
  • Within-generation plasticity
  • Adaptive transgenerational plasticity

Flemish discipline codes

  • Community ecology
  • Invasion biology
  • Plant ecology