PPH-30806 Plant Plasticity and Adaptation


Credits 6.00

Teaching methodContact hours
Individual Paper1
Group work4
Independent study
Course coordinator(s)dr. L Bentsink
Lecturer(s)dr. JB Evers
prof. dr. ir. PC Struik
dr. ir. AR van der Krol
dr. ir. JW Ligterink
dr. HWM Hilhorst
dr. L Bentsink
dr. ir. HS van der Honing
Examiner(s)dr. L Bentsink

Language of instruction:


Assumed knowledge on:

Basic knowledge on plant physiology, plant cell biology, and genetics, as taught in: GEN-11806 Fundamentals of Genetics and Molecular Biology; CLB-10803 Reproduction of Plants; PPH-10806 Structure and Function of Plants, or equivalent courses.

Continuation courses:

MSc Thesis PPH, CLB, CSA.


Due to their sessile nature, plants have developed a vast array of adaptation mechanisms to cope with seasonal or sudden changes in the growth environment. These adaptation mechanisms mostly consist of species-, environment- and stress- specific changes in the basal morphological and physiological processes, shared by all plants. The success with which plants are able to survive under a wide range of environmental stresses (high and low temperature; drought, humid and flooded conditions; high concentrations of salt; shadow and high light; mechanical (wind) stress; etc.) is based on their high plasticity and the flexibility of their morphology and physiology. This is expressed in adaptations in relation to e.g.:
- uptake, exchange and transport of water and nutrients;
- photosynthesis;
- (dynamics of) architecture of plants;
- biomechanics of structural strength;
- responses to stress conditions;
- reproductive behaviour; etc.
The course focuses on mechanisms, regulation and genetic principles of plasticity in structure and physiology needed for plants to adapt to environmental variations and extremes. Lecturers from different disciplines in plant science will contribute varying topics within the scope of the course.

Learning outcomes:

After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:
- explain mechanisms of survival strategies of plants to flooding, drought, desiccation, salt and extreme temperatures;
- discuss the basis of genetic variation involved in adaptation to various types of stress;
- give examples of the evolution and diversity of the various reproduction strategies, focusing on strategies for seed dispersal and seed survival in relation to (global) climate and environment/stress;
- explain the background of structural strength in response to a-biotic factors in soil and atmosphere and perform simple calculations about biomechanics of plant strength;
- illustrate the plasticity and dynamics of plant architecture and the consequences for the structure and physiology of plants;
- compare the various survival strategies of plants to flooding, drought, desiccation, salt and extreme temperatures and to recognize common elements of regulation and mechanism of stress responses;
- compare the various adaptations of plants to different conditions that affect photosynthesis (e.g. low/high light, availability of water and CO2 etc.) and photomorphogenesis (e.g. light quality differences caused by the presence of other plants);
- formulate a simple research question based on a given assignment, execute the relevant experiment(s) and provide a short written report;
identify and select relevant information (literature) on a given or chosen topic within the course framework;
formulate a hypothesis and research question, execute a literature survey needed to address this question, analyse experimental data from the literature, accept or reject hypothesis and report in the form of a concise essay.


- lectures, 'wet' and 'dry'lab classes;
- wWriting of an essay to combine/compare/synthesize several topics of the course.


- written test with 8 open questions (50%);
- one essay on topic(s) discussed in the course (50%).
Each component needs a minimum mark of 5.5 to pass.


H. Lambers [et al.](2008). Plant Physiological Ecology, 2nd ed. New York, US: Springer. 605p.
ISBN 978-0-387-78341-3; ISBN: 978-0-387-78340-6.

Compulsory for: BBIBiologyBScB: Organismal and Developmental Biology6WD
Restricted Optional for: MBIBiologyMScI: Plant Adaptation6WD
Compulsory for: WUEPSBSc Minor Experimental Plant Sciences6WD