Phenotypic plasticity in plants: evolution, adaptation and its relevance in a changing climate

Mossy forest


This research into plant responses to the novel environments posed by climate change will assess whether we can breed for more responsive crops or predict native plant tolerance of climate change.

Although environmentally induced variation in phenotype, or phenotypic plasticity, is ubiquitous, fundamental questions remain poorly understood. E.g.: When is plasticity adaptive? What traits show such plasticity? Does plasticity contribute to diversification? Does plasticity in hold potential for breeding crop plants in a changing climate? Research in my lab explores plant phenotypic plasticity from perspectives ranging from evolutionary theory to applications in industry. This international collaborative research project will determine the relevance of phenotypic plasticity in crop breeding for food production and in the conservation and management of our native flora.

For more on phenotypic plasticity you may be interested in these papers by lab members:

  • Goh, C. H., D. F. V. Vallejos, A. B. Nicotra and U. Mathesius (2013). "The Impact of Beneficial Plant-Associated Microbes on Plant Phenotypic Plasticity." Journal of Chemical Ecology 39(7): 826-839.
  • Davidson AM, Jennions M, Nicotra AB (2011) Do invasive species show higher phenotypic plasticity than native species and, if so, is it adaptive? A meta-analysis. Ecology Letters 14(4), 419-431.
  • Nicotra AB, Davidson A (2010) Adaptive phenotypic plasticity and plant water use. Functional Plant Biology 37(2), 117-127.
  • Nicotra AB, Atkin OK, et al. (2010) Plant phenotypic plasticity in a changing climate. Trends in Plant Science 15(12), 684-692.
  • Nicotra AB, Hermes JP, Jones CS, Schlichting CD (2007) Geographic variation and plasticity to water and nutrients in Pelargonium australe. New Phytologist 176(13), 136-149.


This research is supported by an ARC Future Fellowship in partnership with CSIRO Plant Industry and international collaborators including Fernando Valladares and Christina Richards.

Updated:  29 May 2017/Responsible Officer:  Director RSB/Page Contact:  Webmaster RSB