Evidence that longer needle retention of spruce and pine populations at high elevations and high latitudes is largely a phenotypic response

Peter B. Reich, Jacek Oleksyn, Jerzy Modrzynski, Mark G. Tjoelker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Scopus citations

Abstract

There is abundant evidence that evergreen conifers living at high elevations or at high latitudes have longer-lived needles than trees of the same species living elsewhere. This pattern is likely caused by the influence of low temperature in combination with related factors such as a short growing season and low nutrient availability. Because it is not known to what degree such patterns result from phenotypic versus genotypic variation, we evaluated needle longevity for common-garden-grown lowland populations of European Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) of wide latitudinal origin and Norway spruce (Picea abies L.) of wide elevational origin. Nine- year-old trees of 16 Scots pine populations ranging in origin from 47° to 60° N were studied in Kornik, Poland (52° N) and 18-year-old trees of 18 Norway spruce populations ranging in origin from 670 to 1235 m elevation in southwestern Poland were studied near Morawina, Poland (51 °N, 180 m elevation). There was no tendency in either species for populations from northern or high elevation origins to retain needles longer than other populations. All of the Scots pine populations had between 2.5 to 3.0 needle age cohorts and all of the Norway spruce populations had between 6.4 and 7.2 needle age cohorts. Thus, extended needle retention in Scots pine and Norway spruce populations in low-temperature habitats at high elevations and high latitudes appears to be largely an environmentally regulated phenotypic acclimation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)643-647
Number of pages5
JournalTree physiology
Volume16
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - 1996

Keywords

  • Picea abies
  • Pinus sylvestris
  • genotypic variation
  • needle longevity
  • phenotypic variation
  • temperature

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