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Gene movement and genetic association with regional climate gradients in California valley oak (Quercus lobata Née) in the face of climate change


Victoria L. Sork, Fax: 1 310 206 0484; E-mail:


Rapid climate change jeopardizes tree populations by shifting current climate zones. To avoid extinction, tree populations must tolerate, adapt, or migrate. Here we investigate geographic patterns of genetic variation in valley oak, Quercus lobata Née, to assess how underlying genetic structure of populations might influence this species’ ability to survive climate change. First, to understand how genetic lineages shape spatial genetic patterns, we examine historical patterns of colonization. Second, we examine the correlation between multivariate nuclear genetic variation and climatic variation. Third, to illustrate how geographic genetic variation could interact with regional patterns of 21st Century climate change, we produce region-specific bioclimatic distributions of valley oak using Maximum Entropy (MAXENT) models based on downscaled historical (1971–2000) and future (2070–2100) climate grids. Future climatologies are based on a moderate-high (A2) carbon emission scenario and two different global climate models. Chloroplast markers indicate historical range-wide connectivity via colonization, especially in the north. Multivariate nuclear genotypes show a strong association with climate variation that provides opportunity for local adaptation to the conditions within their climatic envelope. Comparison of regional current and projected patterns of climate suitability indicates that valley oaks grow in distinctly different climate conditions in different parts of their range. Our models predict widely different regional outcomes from local displacement of a few kilometres to hundreds of kilometres. We conclude that the relative importance of migration, adaptation, and tolerance are likely to vary widely for populations among regions, and that late 21st Century conditions could lead to regional extinctions.