Local-scale diversity and adaptation along elevational gradients assessed by reciprocal transplant experiments: lack of local adaptation in silver fir populations.
Key message: Silver fir transplantations along elevational gradients revealed a high diversity but no local adaptation. Populations displayed similar abilities to adapt to new environments including those due to climate change. Context: The sustainability of forest stands depends on the ability of species and communities to adapt by combining plasticity and genetic evolution. Although well-documented at the scale of species distributions, the variability and adaptation of forest tree genetic resources are less understood at the short-distance scale. Aims: We analysed the effects of genetic and environmental factors on the local-scale phenotypic diversity of traits related to adaptation in Abies alba. We also sought to highlight local adaptation, revealing past selection. Methods: Six adaptive traits related to growth, phenology and survival were measured on seedlings from 57 half-sib families collected from 15 provenances and planted in a nine-site reciprocal transplant experiment distributed along three elevational gradients. Results: Most part of the phenotypic variability was attributed to the environmental factors. Provenances and families had also significant effects on seedling performances, but the genetic variability was mostly attributed to the families. No pattern of local adaptation was observed, except in the presence of lateral branches in the driest garden. Conclusion: The absence of local adaptation suggests a similar ability of all silver fir populations to develop in the various environments. This result provides favourable conditions for coping with the ongoing climate change without exotic resources enrichment.