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Patterns of genetic diversity vary among shoot and root functional traits in Norway spruce (Picea abies) along a latitudinal gradient

Cite this dataset

Salmela, Matti J. (2021). Patterns of genetic diversity vary among shoot and root functional traits in Norway spruce (Picea abies) along a latitudinal gradient [Dataset]. Dryad.


Roots constitute a major segment of plant biomass, and variation in belowground traits in situ correlates with environmental gradients at large spatial scales. Local adaptation of populations maintains intraspecific genetic variation in various shoot traits, but the contribution of genetic factors to adaptation to soil heterogeneity remains poorly known. I established a common-garden experiment with three Norway spruce (Picea abies) populations sampled between 60° and 67° N in Finland, each represented by 13 or 15 maternal families, to determine whether belowground traits are as genetically differentiated among populations as those in the shoot along a collective latitudinal gradient of temperature and soil heterogeneity. Two growing season simulations enabled testing for among-population differences in phenotypic plasticity. I phenotyped 777 first-year seedlings from shoot to root to capture functional traits that may influence survival in the wild: autumn phenology, shoot growth, root system size, root architecture, root morphology and growth allocation. All traits exhibited within-population genetic diversity, but among-population differentiation ranged from strong in shoot traits to nonexistent in root system architecture and morphology that are scaled to root system size. However, latitudinal trends characterised root-to-shoot ratio and root tip-to-shoot ratio that account for among-population differences in aboveground growth. Overall trait variability was multidimensional with variable among- vs. within-population trends: for example, phenology and shoot growth covaried across populations, but their association within individual populations was variable. Shoot growth correlated positively with root system size, but not with root architecture or morphology. Finally, the two higher-latitude populations exhibited greater phenotypic plasticity in shoot traits and growth allocation. The results demonstrate varying patterns of genetic variation in functional traits of Norway spruce in the boreal zone, suggesting simultaneous adaptation to multiple environmental factors. Functional traits that exhibit phenotypic plasticity, genetic diversity and little covariation will promote long-term survival of populations in fluctuating environments.


Emil Aaltonen Foundation, Award: 180226 N1V, 190212 N1V

Emil Aaltosen Säätiö, Award: 180226 N1V, 190212 N1V