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Aspen (Populus tremuloides Michx) is a widespread commercial forest tree of high economic importance in western Canada and has been subject to tree improvement efforts over the past two decades. Such improvement programs rely on accurate estimates of the genetic gain in growth traits and correlated response in adaptive traits that are important for forest health. Here, we estimated genetic parameters in 10 progeny trials containing >30,000 trees with pedigree structures based on a partial factorial mating design that includes 60 half-sibs, 100 full-sib families and 1,400 clonally replicated genotypes. Estimated narrow-sense and broad-sense heritabilities were low for height and diameter (~0.2), but moderate for the dates of budbreak and leaf senescence (~0.4). Furthermore, estimated genetic correlations between growth and phenology were moderate to strong with tall trees being associated with early budbreak (r = -0.3) and late leaf senescence (r = -0.7). Survival was not compromised, but was positively associated with early budbreak or late leaf senescence, indicating that utilizing the growing season was more important for survival and growth than avoiding early fall or late spring frosts. These result suggests that populations are adapted to colder climate conditions and lag behind environmental conditions to which they are optimally adapted due to substantial climate warming observed over the last several decades for the study area.
Ding C, Hamann A, Yang R-C, Brouard JS (2020) Genetic parameters of growth and adaptive traits in aspen (Populus tremuloides): Implications for tree breeding in a warming world. PLoS ONE 15(3): e0229225. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0229225