Canadian Forest Service Publications
Complex patterns of hybridization between exotic and native North American poplar species. 2010. Meirmans, P.G.; Lamothe, M.; Gros-Louis, M.-C.; Khasa, D.P.; Périnet, P.; Bousquet, J.; Isabel, N. American Journal of Botany 97(10): 1688-1697.
Issued by: Laurentian Forestry Centre
Catalog ID: 32007
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• Premise of the study: Poplars and their hybrids are seen as important candidates for bioenergy initiatives. However, many concerns have been raised about large-scale plantations of new poplar cultivars. The deployment of such plants with novel traits brings the risk of potential spread of novel genome regions (including exotic genes, transgenes, or other heritable modifications) into natural populations of related species. The possibility of introgression is especially high in poplars because reproductive barriers between species are weak. Knowledge of the frequency of hybridization between cultivated trees and natural populations is one important step in the risk-assessment process.
• Methods: We studied the rate of spontaneous hybridization from two sexually mature poplar plantations into adjacent natural populations of Populus deltoids and P. balsamifera. The two plantations, both in eastern Canada, contain many different complex hybrid clones with components from exotic species, mostly P. nigra, P. trichocarpa, and P. maximowiczii. We analyzed 12 species-specific single nucleotide polymorphisms from six different genes in 5373 offspring sampled from the natural populations.
• Results: Contributions from all three exotics were found in the offspring, confirming low reproductive barriers among poplar species in these sections. The frequency of hybrid offspring varied among pollen donors, recipient populations, and years.
• Conclusions: The remarkably high rate of hybridization that was found in the smallest natural population sampled suggests that small peripheral populations carry a higher risk of introgression. These results could be used as a starting point for developing regulatory guidelines for the introduction of plants with novel traits.