Natalie Colao ’21
Major: Organismal Biology & Ecology
Faculty Collaborator: Shane Heschel, Organismal Biology & Ecology
Climate change has altered environmental conditions, making habitats less suitable for flora to survive. However, certain weedy plants, like Impatiens capensis, are plastic and can respond to stress. Populations of Impatiens capensis can differentiate across a range of soil moisture conditions. This weedy, wetland annual is distributed from the East coast to the Rocky Mountains, prefers moist environments and is susceptible to drought. As drought conditions become more excessive due to climatic changes, I. capensis populations in Colorado endure drastically different environments than I. capensis populations in Pennsylvania. Here, we examine whether Colorado I. capensis seedlings have the capacity to have higher stomatal density and, if so, are more plastic than Pennsylvania populations. To investigate this, we grew inbred I. capensis genetic lines from Colorado and Pennsylvania in the same, stable conditions and performed statistical analyses to see if morphological and physiological seedling traits differed between populations. The Colorado Impatiens populations showed higher stomatal density yet lower stomatal conductance than the Pennsylvania populations. This shows that during drought conditions, Colorado populations can close stoma to conserve water while still efficiently photosynthesizing, and during large rainfall can be opportunistic and open all their stoma to uptake large amounts of water.