Changes in Foliar Functional Traits of S. pyrenaicus subsp. carpetanus under the Ongoing Climate Change: A Retrospective Survey

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The sensitivity of stomatal behavior and patterning (i.e., distribution, density, size) to environmental stimuli, renders them crucial for defining the physiological performance of leaves. Thus, assessing long-term modifications in stomatal traits in conserved specimens arises as a valuable eco-physiological approach to predict how the rising trend of warmer, drier summers could a_ect plant fitness; particularly in mountain areas already experiencing climate aggravation and lacking the related monitoring schemes like Mediterranean high-mountains. Variations in foliar and stomatal traits were studied in conserved specimens of Senecio pyrenaicus subsp. carpetanus from Sierra de Guadarrama over the past 71 years. Our findings revealed decreasing trends in leaf width, stomatal size, and increasing tendency in stomatal density, all correlated with the recent 30-year climate exacerbation in these mountains. This evidenced a positive selection favoring traits that allow safeguarding plant performance under drier, hotter weather conditions. The significant relation between stomatal traits and climatic variables upholds the role of stomatal patterning in sensing environmental cues in this species, feasibly optimizing physiological responses involved in the growth–water loss trade-o_. The transition to smaller, densely packed stomata observed in recent decades could indicate local-adaptive plasticity in this species, enhancing stomatal response, as coarser environmental conditions take place in Sierra de Guadarrama.
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