Canadian Forest Service Publications

Indicators of population viability in red spruce, Picea rubens: I. Reproductive traits and fecundity. 2000. Mosseler, A.; Major, J.E.; Simpson, J.D.; Daigle, B.I.; Lange, K.; Park, Y.S.; Johnsen, K.H.; Rajora, O.P. Canadian Journal of Botany 78: 928-940.

Year: 2000

Issued by: Atlantic Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 18153

Language: English

Availability: PDF (request by e-mail)

Mark record


Red spruce (Picea rubens Sarg ) has experienced a substantial decline across most of its range in eastern North America over the past century and probably also in the disjunct Ontario populations where it now occurs only in small isolated stands. Measurements of cone and seed traits from natural populations were used as indicators of the reproductive and genetic status of red spruce across the northern margins of its range in Canada. Cone and seed traits were quantified to provide reproductive benchmarks for assessing and monitoring population viability. Reduced fecundity and seedling height growth were observed in some of the smallest Ontario populations, suggesting some inbreeding depression in both vegetative and reproductive components of fitness. Nevertheless, the reproductive status of these small isolated Ontario populations compared favorably with the much larger, more extensive Maritime populations in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Significantly higher proportions of aborted (nonpollinated) seeds and lower proportions of filled seeds suggested poorer pollination conditions in the Maritimes in 1996. The proportion of empty seed, which was used to estimate inbreeding levels, was significantly and negatively related to seedling height growth. In the short term, the Ontario populations, which probably represent relatively recent remnants of a broader past distribution, generally appeared to be quite resilient to the effects of small population size on fecundity and progeny fitness. In the longer term, continuing decline in poplation sizes and numbers may be expected to erode reproductive success and genetic diversity through the effects of inbreeding, genetic drift, and changes in mating behavior. The reproductive indicators described here have general validity for assessing and monitoring reproductive and genetic aspects of population viability in conifers.