Genetic diversity of yellow birch seedlings in Michigan
Wearstler, K.A.J.; Barnes, B.V.
Canadian Journal of Botany 55(22): 2778-2788
ISSN/ISBN: 0008-4026 DOI: 10.1139/b77-316
Genetic differentiation of populations of yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis Britton) along ecological gradients in Michigan [USA] and the Appalachian Mountains was determined. Seeds were collected from populations in each of 6 physiographic regions of Michigan and in the northern and southern Appalachian Mountains. Seedlings were grown in a common garden in southeastern Michigan. First-year height of progeny, seed weight, initial germination and germination percentage for 141 yellow birch trees in 30 populations were determined and compared. Significant differences were found among the 6 Michigan regions for all characters. Strong south-north clinal trends of decreasing height, increasing seed weight, earlier initial germination and increasing total germination were revealed. Comparisons between physiographic regions showed that tall seedlings were produced by relatively light, late-germinating seeds. Within each region, however, seedlings from earlier germinating seeds tended to exhibit greater height growth. Significant differences were found among populations within a given region for specific characters. In the Appalachian Mountains, southern populations had taller progeny and lighter and poorer germinating seeds than northern populations. Regressions relating each character to 13 site variables were computed. Variation in total height and initial germination were interpreted as the result of differences in the length of the growing season associated with changes in elevation, terrain type and aspect. Variation in seed weight was associated with differences in the length of growing season and soil moisture regimes.