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Clinal variations in seedling traits and responses to water availability correspond to seed-source environmental gradients in a foundational dryland tree speciesAbstract Background and Aims In dryland ecosystems, conifer species are threatened by more frequent and severe droughts, which can push species beyond their physiological limits. Adequate seedling establishment will be critical for future resilience to global change. We used a common garden glasshouse experiment to determine how seedling functional trait expression and plasticity varied among seed sources in response to a gradient of water availability, focusing on a foundational dryland tree species of the western USA, Pinus monophylla. We hypothesized that the expression of growth-related seedling traits would show patterns consistent with local adaptation, given clinal variation among seed source environments. Methods We collected P. monophylla seeds from 23 sites distributed across rangewide gradients of aridity and seasonal moisture availability. A total of 3320 seedlings were propagated with four watering treatments representing progressively decreasing water availability. Above- and below-ground growth-related traits of first-year seedlings were measured. Trait values and trait plasticity, here representing the degree of variation among watering treatments, were modelled as a function of watering treatment and environmental conditions at the seed source locations (i.e. water availability, precipitation seasonality). Key Results We found that, under all treatments, seedlings from more arid climates had larger above- and below-ground biomassmore »Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 11, 2024