Genetic consequences of selection cutting on sugar maple (Acer saccharum Marshall)
Noémie Graignic, Francine Tremblay, Yves Bergeron.
Selection cutting is a treatment that emulates tree-by-tree replacement for forests with uneven-age structures. It creates small openings in large areas and often generates a more homogenous forest structure (fewer large leaving trees and defective trees) that differs from old-growth forest. In this study, we evaluated whether this type of harvesting has an impact on genetic diversity of sugar maple (Acer saccharum Marshall). Genetic diversity among seedlings, saplings, and mature trees was compared between selection cut and old-growth forest stands in Québec, Canada. We found higher observed heterozygosity and a lower inbreeding coefficient in mature trees than in younger regeneration cohorts of both forest types. We detected a recent bottleneck in all stands undergoing selection cutting. Other genetic indices of diversity (allelic richness, observed and expected heterozygosity, and rare alleles) were similar between forest types. We concluded that the effect of selection cutting on the genetic diversity of sugar maple was recent and no evidence of genetic erosion was detectable in Québec stands after one harvest. However, the cumulative effect of recurring applications of selection cutting in bottlenecked stands could lead to fixation of deleterious alleles, and this highlights the need for adopting better forest management practices.