Studies of many plants species have demonstrated adaptive genetic differentiation to local environmental conditions. Typically these studies are conducted to evaluate adaptation to contrasting environments. As a consequence, although local adaptation has been frequently demonstrated, we have little information as to the spatial scale of adaptive evolution. We evaluated adaptive differentiation between populations of the annual legume Chamaecrista fasciculata using a replicated common-garden design. Study sites were established in three field locations that are home to native populations of C. fasciculata. Each location was planted for two years with seed from the population native to the study site (home population) and populations located six distances (0.1–2000 km) from each site (transplanted populations). Seeds were planted into the study sites with minimum disturbance to determine the scale of local adaptation, as measured by a home-site fitness advantage, for five fitness components: germination, survival, vegetative biomass, fruit production, and the number of fruit produced per seed planted (an estimate of cumulative fitness). For all characters there was little evidence for local adaptation, except at the furthest spatial scales. Patterns of adaptive differentiation were fairly consistent in two of the three sites, but varied between years. Little genetic variation was expressed at the third site. These results, combined with previous estimates of limited gene flow, suggest that metapopulation processes and temporal environmental variation act together to reduce local adaptation, except over long distances.
Corresponding Editor: J. Conner