Micro-evolutionary patterns of juvenile wood density in a pine species
- First Online:
Wood density can be considered an adaptive trait, because it ensures the safe and efficient transport of water from the roots to the leaves, mechanical support for the body of the plant and the storage of biological chemicals. Its variability has been extensively described in narrow genetic backgrounds and in wide ranges of forest tree species, but little is known about the extent of natural genetic and phenotypic variability within species. This information is essential to our understanding of the evolutionary forces that have shaped this trait, and for the evaluation of its inclusion in breeding programs. We assessed juvenile wood density, leaf area, total aboveground biomass, and growth in six Pinus pinaster populations of different geographic origins (France, Spain, and Morocco) growing in a provenance-progeny trial. No genetic differentiation was found for wood density, whereas all other traits significantly differed between populations. Heritability of this trait was moderate, with a low additive genetic variance. For retrospective identification of the evolutionary forces acting on juvenile wood density, we compared the distribution of neutral markers (FST) and quantitative genetic differentiation (QST). We found that QST was significantly lower than FST, suggesting evolutionary stasis. Furthermore, we did not detect any relationship between juvenile wood density and drought tolerance (resistance to cavitation), suggesting that this trait could not be used as a proxy for drought tolerance at the intraspecific level.