PPH-30806 Plant Plasticity and Adaptation


Credits 6.00

Teaching methodContact hours
Practical intensively supervised24
Problem-based learning12
Course coordinator(s)dr. HWM Hilhorst
Lecturer(s)dr. JB Evers
prof. dr. ir. PC Struik
dr. AAM van Lammeren
dr. D Vreugdenhil
dr. ir. AR van der Krol
dr. ir. JW Ligterink
Examiner(s)prof. dr. HJ Bouwmeester
prof. dr. ir. PC Struik
prof. dr. ME Janson

Language of instruction:


Assumed knowledge on:

PPH-10806 en PCB-10803

Continuation courses:

MSc Thesis PPH, PCB, CSA


The introductory courses in plant biology chiefly focus on the general properties of plant morphology/anatomy and of plant functioning, i.e, those aspects that most plants have in common and which give insight in the processes necessary for the understanding of the growth and survival of a 'standard' or 'model' plant. Plants have developed a large array of adaptation mechanisms, as plants, due to their sessile nature, cannot avoid 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 and low concentrations of nutrients; high concentrations of salt and heavy metals; 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;
Thus, the course on 'Plant Plasticity and Stress' focuses on the plasticity in structure and physiology needed for plants to adapt to environmental variations and extremes at the levels of water, light and nutrient availability, salinity, mechanical and temperature stress.

Learning outcomes:

Students should be able to:
- comprehend the specific adaptations of plants for (selective) uptake, exchange and transport of fluids and nutrients, including symbiosis, resource allocation, storage, excretion, redistribution and accumulation, depending on their life cycle strategy and the type of environmental stress. This includes both strategies for the optimization of the availability of essential nutrients as well as for the elimination of the deleterious effects of toxic compounds;
- understand the background of structural strength in response to a-biotic factors in soil and atmosphere and perform simple calculations about biomechanics of plant strength
- 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)
- understand the plasticity and dynamics of plant architecture and the consequences for the structure and physiology of plants
- compare the different survival strategies of plants to flooding, drought, desiccation, salt and extreme temperatures
- describe the evolution and diversity of different reproduction and flowering strategies, focusing on differences in strategies for pollination, fruit formation, seed dispersal and seed survival in relation to climate and environment/stress
- formulate a research question and execute the research needed to answer this question, discuss experimental data, including statistical analysis, and report a scientific research through oral and written presentations.


The theory is explained in several lectures. The students will attend (demonstration) practicals. In addition, students prepare, carry out and present a practical project.


Written examination, project report and presentation.


There is no literatature available.

Restricted Optional for: BBIBiologyBScB: Organismal and Developmental Biology2AF
Compulsory for: WUEPPBSc Minor Experimental Plant Physiology2AF