Boyarskikh, I.G., and Shitov, A.V., 2010. Intraspecific variability of plants: The impact of active local faults. In: Florinsky, I.V. (Ed.), Man and the Geosphere. Nova Science Publishers, New York, pp. 145–167.
Plant domestication has given a strong impetus to the development of early agricultural societies. Such societies have commonly been located in regions of genetic and phenotypic intra- and interspecific variability of plants. In this chapter, we study a possible impact of active local faults on plant intrapopulation variability exemplified by Lonicera caerulea L. (blue honeysuckle). We carried out a combined geophysical (magnetometric) and botanical survey in the Ak-Turu Valley, Mountain Altai, Russia. Statistical analyses demonstrated that within fault zones (a) the expression of L. caerulea recessive trait – bitter-free fruits – is sharply increased; (b) the smallest fruits are observed; and (c) diversity of fruit shape is increased. It is known that many species display the highest level of plant-to-plant intrapopulation variability when they occur in the least favorable environmental conditions. This can be connected with a mutagenicity of a chronic stress and a direct influence of local geochemical mutagenic agents. The decrease in fruit weight and the increase in variability of morphometric and taste traits indicate that fault zones may effect plant development in both these ways. This can be associated with local seismicity as a permanent stressor, as well as a seismically induced increase in the groundwater-driven release of some mutagenic substances and radon emanation along the faults and adjacent fractures. Our results suggest that geochemical and geophysical anomalies as well as an enhanced degassing level within fault zones, especially during regional seismic activization, may mutagenically affect plants.