Main content area

Altitudinal differentiation in growth and phenology among populations of temperate-zone tree species growing in a common garden

Vitasse, Yann, Delzon, Sylvain, Bresson, Caroline C., Michalet, Richard, Kremer, Antoine
Canadian journal of forest research = 2009 v.39 no.7 pp. 1259-1269
trees, tree growth, phenology, leaves, senescence, genetic variation, temperate forests, altitude, provenance, Abies alba, Acer pseudoplatanus, Fagus sylvatica, Fraxinus excelsior, Ilex aquifolium, Quercus petraea, temperature, population genetics, genetic stability, climatic factors, adaptation, species differences, traits, France
The aim of the study was to determine whether there are genetic variations in growth and leaf phenology (flushing and senescence) among populations of six woody species (Abies alba Mill., Acer pseudoplatanus L., Fagus sylvatica L., Fraxinus excelsior L., Ilex aquifolium L., and Quercus petraea (Matt.) Liebl.) along altitudinal gradients, using a common-garden experiment. We found (i) significant differences in phenology and growth among provenances for most species and (ii) evidence that these among-population differences in phenology were related to the annual temperature at the provenance sites for ash, beech, and oak. It is noteworthy that along the same climatic gradient, species can exhibit opposing genetic clines: beech populations from high elevations flushed earlier than those from low elevations, whereas we observed the opposite trend for ash and oak. For most species, significant altitudinal clines for growth were also revealed. Finally, we highlighted the fact that both phenology timing and growth rate were highly consistent from year to year. The results demonstrated that despite the proximity of the populations in their natural area, differences in altitude led to genetic differentiation in their phenology and growth. These adaptive capacities acting along a natural climatic gradient could allow populations to cope with current climate change.