Ecogenetic plasticity and genetic variation in Populus hybrids under the impact of simulated climate change related stressors

  • Valda Gudynaitė-Franckevičienė Institute of Forestry, Lithuanian Research Centre for Agriculture and Forestry.  Kaunas Forestry and Environmental Engineering University of Applied Sciences
  • Alfas Pliūra  Institute of Forestry, Lithuanian Research Centre for Agriculture and Forestry. Agriculture Academy, Vytautas Magnus University
  • Vytautas Suchockas Institute of Forestry, Lithuanian Research Centre for Agriculture and Forestry. Agriculture Academy, Vytautas Magnus University


  To meet the needs of carbon sequestration and production of raw materials from renewable natural resources for the timber market of the European Union, it is necessary to expand forest plantation areas. The efficiency of short rotation forestry depends primarily on the selection of hybrids and clones, suitable for the local environmental conditions. We postulate that ecogenetic response, ecogenetic plasticity and genotypic variation of different hybrids of poplars (Populus L.) depend both on the type of stressors (spring frosts, summer drought, increased UV-B radiation, warm winters) and peculiarities of the cross-bred species as well as on their genetic preadaptations to native environmental conditions of their origin. The aim of the study was to estimate the ecogenetic plasticity, genotypic variation of adaptive traits and adaptability of Populus hybrids under simulated conditions of the expected climate change. The research was performed with the cultivars and experimental clones of three different intraspecific hybrids of poplars (P. nigra L., P. deltoides Bartr. ex Marsh, and P. trichocarpa Torr. & Gray.) and four interspecific hybrids of poplars (P. deltoides L. × P. nigra, P. deltoides × P. trichocarpa, P. maximowiczii A. Henry × P. trichocarpa, and P. balsamifera L. × P. trichocarpa). Simulated spring frosts and summer drought treatments had a substantial impact on growth of trees, but the hybrid and clone effects were also significant and showed that many hybrids and clones in general retain their features/differences under stressful environmental conditions. A strongly expressed hybrid and clone interactions with simulated frost and drought effects (genotype-environment interaction, G × E) showed different ecogenetic response, plasticity and specific ecological preferences of the clones and hybrids. The sensitivity of hybrids to UV-B radiation varied and depended on the origin of their parental trees and this sensitivity partially reflected their susceptibility also to other stressors. Warm winters adversely effected the growth of some hybrids while others - P. nigra × P. nigra and P. trichocarpa × P. trichocarpa, which parents originated from the southern part of their natural distribution range have increased their growth. This treatment also resulted in reduction of the heritability and genotypic variation of growth traits.   Keywords: poplars, clones, genotype-environment interaction, genetic variation, heritability
Forest Plantations