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Wednesday, April 11 • 11:00am - 11:15am
CLIMATE CHANGE EFFECTS AND ADAPTATION: A National, Spatially Explicit Assessment of Forest Tree Genetic Degradation Risk

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AUTHORS: Kevin M. Potter, North Carolina State University; Kurt Riitters, USDA Forest Service, Southern Research Station

ABSTRACT: Genetic diversity is essential for forest tree species because it provides a basis for adaptation and resilience to environmental stress and change. The loss of the option value conveyed by genetic variation could be particularly detrimental to the future survival of tree species in the face of numerous severe stresses. The fundamental importance of genetic variation is recognized by its incorporation in the Montréal Process, which the USDA Forest Service uses as a forest sustainability assessment framework. One Montréal Process indicator for the conservation of biological diversity is the “Number and Geographic Distribution of Forest-Associated Species at Risk of Losing Genetic Variation and Locally Adapted Genotypes.” This indicator has been difficult to address in a systematic fashion, however. We leverage two broad-scale datasets to assess this indicator: (1) species occurrence data from the nationally systematic Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) plot network and (2) climatically and edaphically defined provisional seed zones, which encompass geographic areas with similar geology, climate, vegetation, soils and hydrology. Specifically, we intersect the FIA data with the provisional seed zones, which are used as proxies for among-population adaptive variation under the assumption that adaptive genetic variation within species is associated with the kind of environmental conditions that define the seed zones. We then determine, for each species, the ratio of mature trees to saplings within each seed zone as an indicator of insufficient regeneration that could lead to the loss of genetic variation. The results offer insights into which species and which areas of the country may be experiencing degradation of genetic diversity. Such erosion of genetic variation makes species less able to adapt to environmental change, increases the risk of extinction, and lowers the overall resilience of forest ecosystems.

Wednesday April 11, 2018 11:00am - 11:15am CDT
LaSalle 1 (7th Floor)

Attendees (5)