Local adaptation at the range peripheries of Sitka spruce.

Forest Sciences and Centre for Forest Conservation Genetics, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada.
Journal of Evolutionary Biology (Impact Factor: 3.48). 12/2009; 23(2):249-58. DOI: 10.1111/j.1420-9101.2009.01910.x
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT High-dispersal rates in heterogeneous environments and historical rapid range expansion can hamper local adaptation; however, we often see clinal variation in high-dispersal tree species. To understand the mechanisms of the species' distribution, we investigated local adaptation and adaptive plasticity in a range-wide context in Sitka spruce, a wind-pollinated tree species that has recently expanded its range after glaciations. Phenotypic traits were observed using growth chamber experiments that mimicked temperature and photoperiodic regimes from the limits of the species realized niche. Bud phenology exhibited parallel reaction norms among populations; however, putatively adaptive plasticity and strong divergent selection were seen in bud burst and bud set timing respectively. Natural selection appears to have favoured genotypes that maximize growth rate during available frost-free periods in each environment. We conclude that Sitka spruce has developed local adaptation and adaptive plasticity throughout its range in response to current climatic conditions despite generally high pollen flow and recent range expansion.

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