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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Clinal variation at putatively adaptive polymorphisms in mature populations of Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis (Bong.) Carr.) Lobo, Nina L.


Common garden experiments in widely distributed tree species have demonstrated that phenotypic traits timing of bud set exhibit clinal variation across provenance climatic and geographic gradients, emphasizing the importance of these traits in local adaptation. With rapid advances in molecular techniques, spatial patterns of genomic variation underlying these traits can also be studied. Here I assess whether 17 putatively adaptive single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) previously shown to be statistically associated with cold adaptation phenotypes vary clinally along a temperature gradient in natural, mature populations of Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis). I also test the hypothesis that clinal strength is stronger in mature spruce populations than in seedling populations due to selection. Regressions were run for each of the 17 SNPs with logit-transformed major allele frequency as the dependent variable and provenance mean annual temperature (MAT) as the independent variable. Next, differences in strength of clines between mature and seedling populations were estimated for each SNP separately and for the 17 SNPs as a group. Finally, I ran two alternate analyses – a full analysis that included all seedling populations and a truncated analysis that limited the range of MAT observed in seedling populations to match that of mature populations. My results vary between the full and truncated analyses. In seedlings, the full analysis revealed clines in 11 SNPs (65%) compared to six SNPs (35%) in the truncated analysis. Mature populations had significant clines for five SNPs (29%). For the full analysis, the group test supported the one-sided hypothesis that mature populations have significantly steeper clines than seedlings across SNPs (P=0.027). Parallel clines in seedling and mature populations were observed for a subset of the SNPs, which strengthens their importance for local adaptation. However, low power limited my ability to make conclusive statements about differences in clinal strength between mature and seedling populations. While most SNPs were present in most populations, I also observed that the northern, disjunct population of Kodiak Island, AK was fixed for the highest proportion of SNPs (59%). This suggests that this recently founded population may lack adaptive diversity to respond to rapid climate change in the future.

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