Genetic Variation and Climatic Impacts on Survival and Growth of White Spruce in Alberta, Canada

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Abstract

Because climate has the greatest effect in determining the genetic structure of forest tree species, climatic variables with large effects on growth and survival need to be identified. This would enable proper matching of tree populations to planting sites in the present and future climates. We analysed 24-year survival (S24), height (H24) and diameter (D24) from a series of white spruce provenance trials with 46 populations and 8 test sites in Alberta, Canada. We determined: (1) the amount and pattern of genetic variation, (2) the response of populations to climatic transfer and (3) the potential effects of climate change (2030-2039) on H24 and S24 of the species in Alberta. We found that: (1) using the intraclass correlation, the between-population genetic variance was 10.6% (H24) and 6.6% (D24) of the betweenpopulation phenotypic variance across sites, (2) three climatic white spruce regions exist in Alberta within which variation in growth potential is strongly clinal, (3) the annual moisture index (AMI) expressed as a ratio of degree days above 5°C (GDD) and mean annual precipitation (MAP) was the major determinant of survival and growth at the test sites, (4) we found that at the level of AMI predicted for the 2030-2039 period, survival and growth would decline substantially in the continental part (northern and central) of Alberta where drought already exists. However, during the same period, survival and growth would increase substantially in the foothills and Rocky Mountains region where growth is currently limited by low GDD due to a short growing season.

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