Genetic diversity and genotypic stability in Prunus avium L. at the northern parts of species distribution range

Large genetic variation was found in Prunus avium L. populations from the northern parts of the species distribution range. The ranking of genotypes in terms of growth was stable when tested at three trial sites within the northern parts of the species distribution range.

Context Peripheral populations especially those in the leading edge are isolated from rest of the areas in the species distribution range. This can make them less genetically diverse yet genetically distinct from the rest of the populations in the species distribution range. Evaluation of their genetic diversity is thus crucial in understanding the local adaptation potential of a species.
Aims We investigated the genetic diversity and genotype by environment interaction at the northern parts of the distribution range of P. avium.
Methods Quantitative genetic variation of growth, stem form, and spring phenology were assessed in progenies from 93 plus trees of P. avium selected from 43 locations at the north of the species distribution range in Sweden and tested at two Swedish sites and one Danish site.
Results We find large quantitative genetic variation in growth and phenology at the northern part of the distribution range of P. avium. Only a limited genotype by environment interaction was observed with no clear indication of local adaptation at the northern parts of the species distribution.
Conclusion We conclude that P. avium harbors a high level of genetic diversity at the north of its distribution range. Present patterns therefore reflect more likely the recent introduction of the species and dispersal dynamics rather than a long-term loss of diversity along South-North ecological clines during the Holocene. With no indications of genetic depletion in growth or phenology, the gene pool in the breeding program is considered suitable for the future propagation of the species in the tested area.

Marginal populations, Forest genetics, Climate change, Local adaptation, Wild cherry

Lobo, A., Kjær, E.D., Olrik, D.C. et al. Annals of Forest Science (2018) 75: 62.

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