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Data from: Evolutionary dynamics of the leaf phenological cycle in an oak metapopulation along an elevation gradient


Firmat, Cyril et al. (2017), Data from: Evolutionary dynamics of the leaf phenological cycle in an oak metapopulation along an elevation gradient, Dryad, Dataset,


It has been predicted that environmental changes will radically alter the selective pressures on phenological traits. Long-lived species, such as trees, will be particularly affected, as they may need to undergo major adaptive change over only one or a few generations. The traits describing the annual life cycle of trees are generally highly evolvable, but nothing is known about the strength of their genetic correlations. Tight correlations can impose strong evolutionary constraints, potentially hampering the adaptation of multivariate phenological phenotypes. In this study, we investigated the evolutionary, genetic and environmental components of the timing of leaf unfolding and senescence within an oak metapopulation along an elevation gradient. Population divergence, estimated from in situ and common garden data, was compared to expectations under neutral selection, based on microsatellite markers. This approach made it possible (1) to evaluate the influence of genetic correlation on multivariate local adaptation to elevation and (2) to identify traits probably exposed to past selective pressures due to the colder climate at high elevation. The genetic correlation was positive but very weak, indicating that genetic constraints did not shape the local adaptation pattern for leaf phenology. Both spring and fall (leaf unfolding and senescence, respectively) phenology timings were involved in local adaptation, but leaf unfolding was probably the trait most exposed to climate change-induced selection. Our data indicated that genetic variation makes a much smaller contribution to adaptation than the considerable plastic variation displayed by a tree during its lifetime. The evolutionary potential of leaf phenology is, therefore, probably not the most critical aspect for short-term population survival in a changing climate.

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