Sources of Variation in Growth, Form, and Survival in Dwarf and Normal-Stature Pitch Pines (Pinus rigida, Pinaceae) in Long-Term Transplant Experiments

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environmental variation, genetic variation, growth rate, life history variation, nanism, pine barrens, Pinus rigida, reciprocal transplant

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Determining the relative contributions of genetic and environmental factors to phenotypic variation is critical for understanding the evolutionary ecology of plant species, but few studies have examined the sources of phenotypic differentiation between nearby populations of woody plants. We conducted reciprocal transplant experiments to examine sources of variation in growth rate, form, survival, and maturation in a globally rare dwarf population of pitch pine (Pinus rigida) and in surrounding populations of normal-stature pitch pines on Long Island, New York. Transplants were monitored over a 6-yr period. The influence of seedling origin on height, growth rate, survival, and form (single-stemmed vs. multi-stemmed growth habit) was much smaller than the effect of transplanting location. Both planting site and seed origin were important factors in determining time to reproduction; seedlings originating from dwarf populations and seedlings planted at the normal-stature site reproduced earliest. These results suggest that many of the differences between dwarf and normal-stature pitch pines may be due more to plastic responses to environmental factors than to genetic differentiation among populations. Therefore, preservation of the dwarf pine habitat is essential for preserving dwarf pine communities; the dwarf pines cannot be preserved ex situ.

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American Journal of Botany, v. 93, issue 8, p. 1125-1133