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Data_Sheet_1_Xylem Anatomical Variability in White Spruce at Treeline Is Largely Driven by Spatial Clustering.docx
The ecological function of boreal forests is challenged by drastically changing climate conditions. Although an increasing number of studies are investigating how climate change is influencing growth and distribution of boreal tree species, there is a lack of studies examining the potential of these species to genetically adapt or phenotypically adjust. Here, we sampled clonally and non-clonally growing white spruce trees (Picea glauca [Moench] Voss) to investigate spatial and genetic effects on tree ring width and on six xylem anatomical traits representing growth, water transport, mechanical support, and wood density. We compared different methods for estimating broad sense heritability (H2) of each trait and we evaluated the effects of spatial grouping and genetic grouping on the xylem anatomical traits with linear models. We found that the three different methods used to estimate H2 were quite robust, showing overall consistent patterns, while our analyses were unsuccessful at fully separating genetic from spatial effects. By evaluating the effect size, we found a significant effect of genetic grouping in latewood density and earlywood hydraulic diameter. However, evaluating model performances showed that spatial grouping was a better predictor than genetic grouping for variance in earlywood density, earlywood hydraulic diameter and growth. For cell wall thickness neither spatial nor genetic grouping was significant. Our findings imply that (1) the variance in the investigated xylem anatomical traits and growth is mainly influenced by spatial clustering (most probably caused by microhabitat conditions), which (2) makes it rather difficult to estimate the heritability of these traits in naturally grown trees in situ. Yet, (3) latewood density and earlywood hydraulic diameter qualified for further analysis on the genetic background of xylem traits and (4) cell wall thickness seems a useful trait to investigate large-scale climatic effects, decoupled from microclimatic, edaphic and genetic influences.
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