Canadian Forest Service Publications

Patterns of cross-continental variation in tree seed mass in the Canadian boreal forest. 2013. Liu, J.; Bai, Y.; Lamb, E.G.; Simpson, J.D.; Liu, G.; Wei, Y.; Wang, D.; McKenney, D.W.; Papadopol, P. PLOS One 8(4): E61060.

Year: 2013

Issued by: Atlantic Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 34668

Language: English

Availability: PDF (download)

Available from the Journal's Web site.
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0061060

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Abstract

Seed mass is an adaptive trait affecting species distribution, population dynamics and community structure. In widely distributed species, variation in seed mass may reflect both genetic adaptation to local environments and adaptive phenotypic plasticity. Acknowledging the difficulty in separating these two aspects, we examined the causal relationships determining seed mass variation to better understand adaptability and/or plasticity of selected tree species to spatial/ climatic variation. A total of 504, 481 and 454 seed collections of black spruce (Picea mariana (Mill.) B.S.P.), white spruce (Picea glauca (Moench) Voss) and jack pine (Pinus banksiana Lamb) across the Canadian Boreal Forest, respectively, were selected. Correlation analyses were used to determine how seed mass vary with latitude, longitude, and altitude. Structural Equation Modeling was used to examine how geographic and climatic variables influence seed mass. Climatic factors explained a large portion of the variation in seed mass (34, 14 and 29%, for black spruce, white spruce and jack pine, respectively), indicating species-specific adaptation to long term climate conditions. Higher annual mean temperature and winter precipitation caused greater seed mass in black spruce, but annual precipitation was the controlling factor for white spruce. The combination of factors such as growing season temperature and evapotranspiration, temperature seasonality and annual precipitation together determined seed mass of jack pine. Overall, sites with higher winter temperatures were correlated with larger seeds. Thus, long-term climatic conditions, at least in part, determined spatial variation in seed mass. Black spruce and Jack pine, species with relatively more specific habitat requirements and less plasticity, had more variation in seed mass explained by climate than did the more plastic species white spruce. As traits such as seed mass are related to seedling growth and survival, they potentially influence forest species composition in a changing climate and should be included in future modeling of vegetation shifts.

Plain Language Summary

CFS/NRCan has strong science and policy interests in understanding the role of climate and implications of climate change on forest systems. Seed mass is an adaptive trait affecting species distribution, population dynamics, and community structure. In widely distributed species, variation in seed mass may reflect both genetic adaptation to local environments and adaptive phenotypic plasticity. Data from seed collections of black spruce (Picea mariana (Mill.) B.S.P.), white spruce (Picea glauca (Moench) Voss), and jack pine (Pinus banksiana Lamb) across the Canadian Boreal Forest were analyzd to determine how seed mass varied with latitude, longitude, and altitude. Climatic factors explained a large portion of the variation in seed mass (34, 14, and 29%, for black spruce, white spruce, and jack pine, respectively), indicating species-specific adaptation to long-term climate conditions. Overall, sites with higher winter temperatures were correlated with larger seeds. Thus, long-term climatic conditions, at least in part, determined spatial variation in seed mass. Black spruce and jack pine, species with relatively more specific habitat requirements and less plasticity, had more variation in seed mass explained by climate than did the more plastic species white spruce. As traits such as seed mass are related to seedling growth and survival, they potentially influence forest species composition in a changing climate and should be included in future modeling of vegetation shifts.