Adaptive potential of maritime pine under contrasting environments

A new publication in BMC Plant Biology analyses the adaptive potential of maritime pine.

Predicting the adaptability of forest tree populations under future climates requires a better knowledge of both the adaptive significance and evolvability of measurable key traits. Phenotypic plasticity, standing genetic variation and degree of phenotypic integration shape the actual and future population genetic structure, but empirical estimations in forest tree species are still extremely scarce. We analysed 11 maritime pine populations covering the distribution range of the species (119 families and 8 trees/family, ca. 1300 trees) in a common garden experiment planted at two sites with contrasting productivity. We used plant height as a surrogate of fitness and measured five traits (mean and plasticity of carbon isotope discrimination, specific leaf area, needle biomass, Phenology growth index) related to four different strategies (acquisitive economics, photosynthetic organ size, growth allocation and avoidance of water stress).

Contrary to the expectations in a drought tolerant species, our study suggests that variation in traits related to photosynthetic organ size and acquisitive investment of resources drive phenotypic selection across and within maritime pine populations. Both genetic variation and evolvability of key adaptive traits were considerably high, including plasticity of water use efficiency. These characteristics would enable a relatively fast micro-evolution of populations in response to the ongoing climate changes. Moreover, differentiation among populations in the studied traits would increase under the expected more productive future Atlantic conditions.

Alía, R., Climent, J., Santos-del-Blanco, L. et al. Adaptive potential of maritime pine under contrasting environments. BMC Plant Biol 24, 37 (2024).