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New Phytol. 2016 Apr;210(2):589-601. doi: 10.1111/nph.13809. Epub 2016 Jan 18.

Genome-environment association study suggests local adaptation to climate at the regional scale in Fagus sylvatica.

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Swiss Federal Institute of Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL, Zurcherstrasse 111, 8903, Birmensdorf, Switzerland.
Swiss Federal Institute of Technology ETH, Universitatstrasse 16, 8092, Zurich, Switzerland.
INRA, UR629 Ecologie des Forêts Méditerranéennes (URFM), F-84914, Avignon, France.
INRA, Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique, Avenue the France, 97310, Kourou, France.
Institute of Biosciences and Bioresources, National Research Council, Via Madonna del Piano 10, 50019, Sesto Fiorentino (FI), Italy.


The evolutionary potential of long-lived species, such as forest trees, is fundamental for their local persistence under climate change (CC). Genome-environment association (GEA) analyses reveal if species in heterogeneous environments at the regional scale are under differential selection resulting in populations with potential preadaptation to CC within this area. In 79 natural Fagus sylvatica populations, neutral genetic patterns were characterized using 12 simple sequence repeat (SSR) markers, and genomic variation (144 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) out of 52 candidate genes) was related to 87 environmental predictors in the latent factor mixed model, logistic regressions and isolation by distance/environmental (IBD/IBE) tests. SSR diversity revealed relatedness at up to 150 m intertree distance but an absence of large-scale spatial genetic structure and IBE. In the GEA analyses, 16 SNPs in 10 genes responded to one or several environmental predictors and IBE, corrected for IBD, was confirmed. The GEA often reflected the proposed gene functions, including indications for adaptation to water availability and temperature. Genomic divergence and the lack of large-scale neutral genetic patterns suggest that gene flow allows the spread of advantageous alleles in adaptive genes. Thereby, adaptation processes are likely to take place in species occurring in heterogeneous environments, which might reduce their regional extinction risk under CC.


Fagus sylvatica (European beech); adaptation; climate change; genome-environment association (GEA); isolation by distance/environment (IBD/IBE); landscape genomics; local persistence; microevolution

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