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Tree physiology

Genetic variation in Pinus strobiformis growth and drought tolerance from southwestern US populations.


PMID 27344065

Abstract

The persistence of some tree species is threatened by combinations of novel abiotic and biotic stressors. To examine the hypothesis that Pinus strobiformis Engelm., a tree threatened by an invasive forest pathogen and a changing climate, exhibits intraspecific genetic variation in adaptive traits, we conducted a common garden study of seedlings at one location with two watering regimes using 24 populations. Four key findings emerged: (i) growth and physiological traits were low to moderately differentiated among populations but differentiation was high for some traits in water-stressed populations; (ii) seedlings from warmer climates grew larger, had higher stomatal density and were more water-use efficient (as measured by the carbon isotope ratio) than populations from colder climates; (iii) seedlings from the northern edge of the species' distribution had lower water-use efficiency, higher stomatal conductance, slower growth and longer survival in a lethal drought experiment compared with seedlings from more southern populations; and (iv) based on non-metric multidimensional scaling analyses, populations clustered into southern and northern groups, which did not correspond to current seed transfer zones. Our discovery of a clinal geographic pattern of genetic variation in adaptive traits of P. strobiformis seedlings will be useful in developing strategies to maintain the species during ongoing climate change and in the face of an invasive pathogen.