How environment and gene flow shape adaptation in Scots pine

Carried out by: Dr Alistair Jump (University of Stirling) with Dr Stephen Cavers (CEH Edinburgh), Dr Richard Ennos (University of Edinburgh) and Dr Joan Cottrell (Forest Research)

Summary Description:

Recent trials at CEH show local adaptation in bud burst and cold tolerance in native Scots pine populations along an environmental gradient from East to West Scotland.  However the vast majority of observed variation lies within populations. This project aims to determine how large- and fine-scale forces interact to maintain high-within population diversity and what the implications of geneflow from plantations are for native pinewoods. The project will use existing data and simulations to assess historical migration scenarios and the development of patterns of neutral and adaptive genetic structure. These data will be complemented by fine-scale analysis of genetic structure in selected native pinewoods.

Timescale: 2013-2016

SFT Funds Awarded: £21,000

Project Outcomes:

This three-year PhD project is centred upon three specific objectives, which will be met by employing the methods outlined further below.

  1. To assess the development of genetic structure in a migrating population.
  2. To determine the drivers of high within-population genetic diversity.
  3. To quantify the extent of gene flow into native pinewoods from non-local planted trees.

This project will use existing data and landscape models to assess historical migration scenarios and the development of patterns of neutral and adaptive genetic structure. This will be complemented by fine-scale analysis of selected native pinewoods to test hypotheses on the maintenance of high within-population diversity and to explore the consequences of human landscape modification for genetic diversity. Published genetic and palaeoecological data will be integrated with functional diversity and trait data held by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH Edinburgh), Forest Research and the University of Edinburgh.

The project is now nearing completion and a summary report on the outcomes is available to download here.

How have the results been used?

In summary, although a considerable amount of prior research has focussed on phylogeography and descriptive analyses of the levels and structure of neutral genetic variation, together with provenance trials, the work presented in this study makes a specific advance in the following areas: (i) continental processes during Holocene migrations (ii) contemporary fine-scale processes, (iii) historical and recent management practices influence, (iv) processes acting within and among populations and (iv) potential responses to forthcoming environmental conditions.

These findings leave us with a better understanding not only into the evolutionary aspects of Scots pine but the potential consequences of the combination of contemporary human and environmental factors. The findings of this thesis can help to make better management decisions in the future of Scots pine, with the aim to preserve both neutral and adaptive variation at global and local scales and safeguard Scots pine forest diversity for future generations.

SFT/FC Joint Bursary Award Scheme:. This project has received funding from the SFT/FC Joint Bursary Award.

A short article on this project is available for download.

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