Considerable debate has accompanied efforts to integrate the selective impacts of environmental stresses into models of life-history evolution. This study was designed to determine if different environmental stresses have consistent phenotypic effects on life-history characters and whether selection under different stresses leads to consistent evolutionary responses. We created lineages of a wild mustard (Sinapis arvensis) that were selected for three generations under five stress regimes (high boron, high salt, low light, low water, or low nutrients) or under near-optimal conditions (control). Full-sibling families from the six selection histories were divided among the same six experimental treatments. In that test generation, lifetime plant fecundity and six phenotypic traits were measured for each plant. Throughout this greenhouse study, plants were grown individually and stresses were applied from the early seedling stage through senescence. Although all stresses consistently reduced lifetime fecundity and most size- and growth-related traits, different stresses had contrasting effects on flowering time. On average, stress delayed flowering compared to favorable conditions, although plants experiencing low nutrient stress flowered earliest and those experiencing low light flowered latest. Contrary to expectations of Grime's triangle model of life-history evolution, this ruderal species does not respond phenotypically to poor environments by flowering earlier. Most stresses enhanced the evolutionary potential of the study population. Compared with near-optimal conditions, stresses tended to increase the opportunity for selection as well as phenotypic variance, although both of these quantities were reduced in some stresses. Rather than favoring traits characteristic of stress tolerance, such as slow growth and delayed reproduction, phenotypic selection favored stress- avoidance traits: earlier flowering in all five stress regimes and faster seedling height growth in three stresses. Phenotypic correlations reinforced direct selection on these traits under stress, leading to predicted phenotypic change under stress, but no significant selection in the control environment. As a result of these factors, selection under stress resulted in an evolutionary shift toward earlier flowering. Environmental stresses may drive populations of ruderal plant species like S. arvensis toward a stress-avoidance strategy, rather than toward stress tolerance. Further studies will be needed to determine when selection in stressful environments leads to these alternative life-history strategies.
Corresponding Editor: T. Markow