Genetic differentiation among white spruce populations in Alberta, Canada, was studied using time series data of height and diameter and a climatic index developed by principal component analysis. The objectives were to discern patterns of variation for growth potential and predicted optimum climate; compare optimum climate between populations, between height and diameter at the same age and between height or diameter at different ages; and to see if optimum climate differed from the climate inhabited by populations. Using cluster analysis we found that: (1) populations from mid-latitudes (54° - 57°N) and mid-elevations (600 - 800 m) were grouped together and exhibited high growth potential; populations from north of 57°N were grouped with those from elevations higher than 900m in the Rocky Mountains and exhibited low growth potential; and (2) With minor exceptions, populations from similar climates or geography were grouped together in terms of predicted optimum climate. (3) Analysis of variance showed that optimum climate differed significantly (P < 0.05) among populations; among heights at different ages; among diameters at different ages and between height and diameter at the same ages. However, there was no consistent trend in the direction of change in optimum climate with tree age. (4) The range of climate inhabited by the populations (PI₁ = -5.792 to 4.483) was much wider than the range of their predicted optimum climate (P̂Ō₁ = -1.001 to 0.842), which suggests that in terms of growth potential some populations inhabit sub-optimal climates. Implications of the results on management of white spruce in Alberta are discussed.
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