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Keywords:

  • aspen;
  • cavitation;
  • climate change;
  • drought;
  • freezing-induced embolism;
  • hybrid poplar;
  • xylem

Summary

  • Intensive forestry systems and breeding programs often include either native aspen or hybrid poplar clones, and performance and trait evaluations are mostly made within these two groups. Here, we assessed how traits with potential adaptive value varied within and across these two plant groups.
  • Variation in nine hydraulic and wood anatomical traits as well as growth were measured in selected aspen and hybrid poplar genotypes grown at a boreal planting site in Alberta, Canada. Variability in these traits was statistically evaluated based on a blocked experimental design.
  • We found that genotypes of trembling aspen were more resistant to cavitation, exhibited more negative water potentials, and were more water-use-efficient than hybrid poplars. Under the boreal field test conditions, which included major regional droughts, height growth was negatively correlated with branch vessel diameter (Dv) in both aspen and hybrid poplars and differences in Dv were highly conserved in aspen trees from different provenances.
  • Differences between the hybrid poplars and aspen provenances suggest that these two groups employ different water-use strategies. The data also suggest that vessel diameter may be a key trait in evaluating growth performance in a boreal environment.