Phenotypic plasticity of natural Populus trichocarpa populations in response to temporally environmental change in a common garden Liu, Yang; El-Kassaby, Yousry A.
Background: Natural selection on fitness-related traits can be temporally heterogeneous among populations. As climate changes, understanding population-level responses is of scientific and practical importance. We examined 18 phenotypic traits associated with phenology, biomass, and ecophysiology in 403 individuals of natural Populus trichocarpa populations, growing in a common garden. Results: Compared with tree origin settings, propagules likely underwent drought exposures in the common garden due to significantly low rainfall during the years of measurement. All study traits showed population differentiation reflecting adaptive responses due to local genetic adaptation. Phenology and biomass traits were strongly under selection and showed plastic responses between years, co-varying with latitude. While phenological events (e.g., bud set and growth period) and biomass were under positive directional selection, post-bud set period, particularly from final bud set to the onset of leaf drop, was selected against. With one exception to water-use efficiency, ecophysiology traits were under negative directional selection. Moreover, extended phenological events jointly evolved with source niches under increased temperature and decreased rainfall exposures. High biomass coevolved with climatic niches of high temperature; low rainfall promoted high photosynthetic rates evolution. Conclusions: This work underpins that P. trichocarpa is likely to experience increased fitness (height gain) by evolving toward extended bud set and growth period, abbreviated post-bud set period, and increased drought resistance, potentially constituting a powerful mechanism for long-lived tree species in surviving unpredictably environmental extremes (e.g., drought). See correction doi 10.1186/s12862-021-01884-9 at http://hdl.handle.net/2429/79273
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