Tree Genetics & Genomes

, 11:96 | Cite as

The effects of genetic diversity, climate and defoliation events on trembling aspen growth performance across Canada

  • Mathieu LatutrieEmail author
  • Pierre Mérian
  • Sandrine Picq
  • Yves Bergeron
  • Francine Tremblay
Original Article
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Adaptation


Tree genetic makeup may provide an important control of growth dynamics; however, no studies have previously attempted to evaluate its effects in natural trembling aspen stands. In this study, we examined the relative contribution of genetics (i.e. clonal diversity, observed heterozygosity) and environmental conditions (i.e. insects, climate) on aspen growth as represented by mean inter-tree correlation (RBAR), tree basal area increment (TBAI) and inter-annual growth variability (MS). We sampled 440 trees in 22 even-aged natural stands dominated by aspen along an east-west continental gradient of decreasing annual precipitation in the Canadian boreal forest. Linear and mixed-effect models tested the relationships between tree growth, genetics and environmental factors. We showed that clonal diversity and number of years with forest tent caterpillar (FTC) defoliation (NFTC) reduced and increased the level of growth synchronicity (RBAR), respectively. Clonal diversity explained 30 % of variation in RBAR among sites. TBAI was positively influenced by high moisture conditions while NFTC and climate explained the variation in MS among trees for each site. No genetic effect could explain either TBAI or the MS variation. Climate and NFTC drive annual growth variability in trembling aspen at stand and subcontinental scales. Tree genetic makeup contributed to these dynamics, the annual growth dynamics of multi-clonal stands being less homogeneous than those of monoclonal stands. Maintaining diverse aspen stands may ensure a wider range of growth responses to environmental variability, which in turn may help maintain resilience of aspen stands under future climate.


Climate moisture index Forest tent caterpillar Genetic diversity Heterozygosity Radial growth Trembling aspen 



We thank Dr. E.H. (Ted) Hogg (Northern Forestry Centre, Natural Resources Canada) for providing information and access to the Climate Impacts on Productivity & Health of Aspen (CIPHA) network in Western Canada and David Gervais (Laurentian Forestry Centre, Natural Resources Canada) for the fieldwork. We also thank Centre d’Étude de la Forêt (CEF) professionals, especially Melanie Desrochers for providing the map, Marc J. Mazerolle for statistical advice and William F. J. Parsons for careful editing of the manuscript. We also want to thank all of the people that helped by improving the manuscript, especially Dr. Igor Drobyshev and two anonymous reviewers for their suggestions and comments. A Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) strategic grant (NSERC-SPS 380893-09) to Yves Bergeron financially supported this project.

Supplementary material

11295_2015_925_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (212 kb)
ESM 1 (pdf 212 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mathieu Latutrie
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  • Pierre Mérian
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Sandrine Picq
    • 1
    • 3
  • Yves Bergeron
    • 1
    • 3
  • Francine Tremblay
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Université du Québec en Abitibi-TémiscamingueRouyn-NorandaCanada
  2. 2.Département des Sciences Sociales and Institut des Sciences de la Forêt TempéréeUniversité du Québec en OutaouaisRiponCanada
  3. 3.Centre d’Étude de la ForêtUniversité du Québec à MontréalMontréalCanada

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