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Genetic variation in boreal conifers

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Science  19 Jun 2020:
Vol. 368, Issue 6497, pp. 1325-1326
DOI: 10.1126/science.368.6497.1325-c

White spruce trees (Picea glauca) native to the boreal forests of North America show genetic adaptation to the local environment.

PHOTO: DAVID L. MOORE - AK/ALAMY STOCK PHOTO

Boreal forests are suffering from the effects of climate change. Trees take decades to grow, and it is difficult to test their adaptive capacity. Depardieu et al. took advantage of a common garden experiment set up in 1979 in which tree seeds from 43 geographic origins were planted in a single location in Quebec, Canada. Tree-ring data from white spruce cores in 2006 showed growth responses to droughts in 1997, 2001–2002, and 2005. Trees from locations with drier climates displayed alterations in xylem anatomy and better recovery after drought than trees originating from more humid locations. These variations may reflect genetic adaption to local climate conditions in this widely distributed northern conifer. This information will be valuable in efforts to offset drought sensitivity in reafforestation planning.

New Phytol. 227, 427 (2020).

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