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Choosing the best seeds to help sessile oaks adapt to future climates

Choosing the Best Seeds to Help Sessile Oaks Adapt to Future Climates

sessile oak. Credit: ONF – Giada CONNESTARIA

Planting forests is one way to combat climate change. The origin of seeds is crucial to optimize the success of planted trees and their adaptability to future climates. INRAE ​​and ONF (French National Forest Service) conducted a large-scale survey for over 30 years with a collection of approximately 100 populations of sessile oak trees from across Europe. Spread across four experimental sites in France, they searched for the best seed sources for the strain. Their findings, published in Annals of Forest Science, show that tree populations from regions with a long tradition of forestry have the best combination of ecological and forestry properties (survival, growth, form, phenology). Scientists recommend using about 30 seed sources for planting sessile oak trees in France, bringing together the diversity and adaptation needed to respond to climate change.

The 1976 drought, which hit France and parts of Europe between the autumn of 1975 and the summer of 1976, led to an increase in the death of forest trees, especially pedunculate oaks. The decline led to research on the adaptation of oaks in general and sessile oaks in particular, which remain the most widely planted deciduous species in France. The ONF and INRAE ​​joined forces and assembled a collection of 110 sessile oaks – 70 from France and 40 from elsewhere in Europe – at four experimental sites in the French departments of Sarthe, Cher, Nièvre and Moselle. For 30 years, the scientists studied the evolution of the traits important to these oaks (survival, growth, shape, adaptability to climatic variations) and their genetic variability. The goal was to identify the best seed sources for planting sessile oak trees best suited to future climates.

Surprisingly, the research team found that oak populations with similar traits and similar genetic variations do not cluster according to the 19 geographic origins of sessile oaks, areas defined by their climatic homogeneity (referred to as “regions of origin”). However, what the study showed was the effects of forestry on the organization and variation of traits presented by the oak trees. That is, oaks with the best compromise between survival, growth, adaptability to climatic variations and tree form came from regions with a long tradition of forestry, sometimes dating back to the Middle Ages, such as Bourbonnais, Berry and the Loire Basin. Indeed, in these regions, people have been selecting trees for these very characteristics for generations.

The scientists present several recommendations to ensure the success of sessile oak plantations, which in turn would help forests adapt to future climates. They identified 34 oak populations with good combinations of traits as seed sources for future plantings. They also emphasize the importance of mixing seed sources to preserve genetic diversity in plantations, which is essential for climate change adaptation.

Evolution follows climate: Oaks quickly adapted to climate change in the Anthropocene

More information:
Quentin Girard et al, Origin Variation and Seed Collection for Sessile Oak (Quercus petraea (Matt.) Liebl.) in France, Annals of Forest Science (2022). DOI: 10.1186/s13595-022-01140-0

Alexis Ducousso et al, Long-term and large-scale Quercus petraea population study conducted in provenance tests installed in France, Annals of Forest Science (2022). DOI: 10.1186/s13595-022-01141-z

Provided by INRAE

Quote: Choosing the Best Seeds to Help Sessile Oaks Adapt to Future Climates (June 2022, June 20) retrieved June 20, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-06-seeds-sessile-oaks-future- climates.html

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