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  1. Abstract

    Populus tremuloidesis the widest‐ranging tree species in North America and an ecologically important component of mesic forest ecosystems displaced by the Pleistocene glaciations. Using phylogeographic analyses of genome‐wide SNPs (34,796 SNPs, 183 individuals) and ecological niche modeling, we inferred population structure, ploidy levels, admixture, and Pleistocene range dynamics ofP. tremuloides, and tested several historical biogeographical hypotheses. We found three genetic lineages located mainly in coastal–Cascades (cluster 1), east‐slope Cascades–Sierra Nevadas–Northern Rockies (cluster 2), and U.S. Rocky Mountains through southern Canadian (cluster 3) regions of theP. tremuloidesrange, with tree graph relationships of the form ((cluster 1, cluster 2), cluster 3). Populations consisted mainly of diploids (86%) but also small numbers of triploids (12%) and tetraploids (1%), and ploidy did not adversely affect our genetic inferences. The main vector of admixture was from cluster 3 into cluster 2, with the admixture zone trending northwest through the Rocky Mountains along a recognized phenotypic cline (Utah to Idaho). Clusters 1 and 2 provided strong support for the “stable‐edge hypothesis” that unglaciated southwestern populations persisted in situ since the last glaciation. By contrast, despite a lack of clinal genetic variation, cluster 3 exhibited “trailing‐edge” dynamics from niche suitability predictions signifying complete northward postglacial expansion. Results were also consistent with the “inland dispersal hypothesis” predicting postglacial assembly of Pacific Northwestern forest ecosystems, but rejected the hypothesis that Pacific‐coastal populations were colonized during outburst flooding from glacial Lake Missoula. Overall, congruent patterns between our phylogeographic and ecological niche modeling results and fossil pollen data demonstrate complex mixtures of stable‐edge, refugial locations, and postglacial expansion withinP. tremuloides. These findings confirm and refine previous genetic studies, while strongly supporting a distinct Pacific‐coastal genetic lineage of quaking aspen.

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