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Csilléry et al. (2019)
Adaptation to local climate in multi-trait space: evidence from silver fir (Abies alba Mill.) populations across a heterogeneous environment.
Csilléry Katalin, Ovaskainen Otso, Sperisen Christoph, Buchmann Nina, Widmer Alex, Gugerli Felix
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Heterogeneous environments, such as mountainous landscapes, create spatially varying selection pressure that potentially affects several traits simultaneously across different life stages, yet little is known about the general patterns and drivers of adaptation in such complex settings. We studied silver fir (Abies alba Mill.) populations across Switzerland and characterized its mountainous landscape using downscaled historical climate data. We sampled 387 trees from 19 populations and genotyped them at 374 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) to estimate their demographic distances. Seedling morphology, growth and phenology traits were recorded in a common garden, and a proxy for water use efficiency was estimated for adult trees. We tested whether populations have more strongly diverged at quantitative traits than expected based on genetic drift alone in a multi-trait framework, and identified potential environmental drivers of selection. We found two main responses to selection: (i) populations from warmer and more thermally stable locations have evolved towards a taller stature, and (ii) the growth timing of populations evolved towards two extreme strategies, 'start early and grow slowly' or 'start late and grow fast', driven by precipitation seasonality. Populations following the 'start early and grow slowly' strategy had higher water use efficiency and came from inner Alpine valleys characterized by pronounced summer droughts. Our results suggest that contrasting adaptive life-history strategies exist in silver fir across different life stages (seedling to adult), and that some of the characterized populations may provide suitable seed sources for tree growth under future climatic conditions.
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