Limitations at the limit? Diminishing of genetic effects in norway spruce provenance trials

Klisz, Marcin; Buras, Allan; Sass-Klaassen, Ute; Puchałka, Radosław; Koprowski, Marcin; Ukalska, Joanna


Provenance trials are used to study the effects of tree origin on climate-growth relationships. Thereby, they potentially identify provenances which appear more resilient to anticipated climate change. However, when studying between provenance variability in growth behavior it becomes important to address potential effects related to site marginality in the context of provenance trials. In our study we focus on provenance-specific climate sensitivity manifested under marginal growth conditions. We hypothesized that the provenance effects are masked if trials are located at marginal environmental conditions of the natural species distribution. Under this framework, we investigate 10 Norway spruce provenances growing at two contrasting locations, i.e., a relatively drought-prone site in western Poland (at the climatic margin of Norway spruce’s natural distribution) and a mild and moist site in north-eastern Poland (within its natural range). Combining principal component analysis with climate-growth relationships, we found distinguishable growth patterns and climate correlations among provenances. That is, at the mild and moist north-eastern site, we observed provenance-specific growth patterns and thus a varying drought susceptibility. In contrast, at the dryer western site, provenance-specific growth patterns were less pronounced and all provenances expressed a common and strong sensitivity to drought. Our results indicate that the genetic specificity of growth reactions diminishes toward the distributional margins of a given species. We conclude that the climate conditions at the margins of a species’ distribution are constraining tree growth independently of tree origin. Because of this, the marginality of a site has to be considered when evaluating climate sensitivity of provenances within trials. As a consequence, the yet different responses of provenances to adverse growing conditions may synchronize under more extreme conditions in course of the anticipated climate change.