Influence of northern limit range on genetic diversity and
structure in a widespread North American tree, sugar maple
(Acer saccharum Marshall).
Noémie Graignic, Francine Tremblay, Yves Bergeron.
Due to climate change, the ranges of many North American tree species are expected to shift northward. Sugar maple (Acer saccharum Marshall) reaches its northern continuous distributional limit in northeastern North America at the transition between boreal mixed-wood and temperate deciduous forests. We hypothesized that marginal fragmented northern populations from the boreal mixed wood would have a distinct pattern of genetic structure and diversity. We analyzed variation at 18 microsatellite loci from 23 populations distributed along three latitudinal transects (west, central, and east) that encompass the continuous–discontinuous species range. Each transect was divided into two zones, continuous (temperate deciduous) and discontinuous (boreal mixed wood), based on sugar maple stand abundance. Respective positive and negative relationships were found between the distance of each population to the northern limit (D_north), and allelic richness (AR) and population differentiation (FST). These relations were tested for each transect separately; the pattern (discontinuous–continuous) remained significant only for the western transect. structure analysis revealed the presence of four clusters. The most northern populations of each transect were assigned to a distinct group. Asymmetrical gene flow occurred from the southern into the four northernmost populations. Southern populations in Québec may have originated from two different postglacial migration routes. No evidence was found to validate the hypothesis that northern populations were remnants of a larger population that had migrated further north of the species range after the retreat of the ice sheet. The northernmost sugar maple populations possibly originated from long-distance dispersal.