Substantial variation in the timing of pollen production reduces reproductive synchrony between distant populations of Pinus sylvestris L. in Scotland

Richard Whittet, Stephen Cavers, Joan Cottrell, Cristina Rosique-Esplugas, Richard Ennos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

The ability of a population to genetically adapt to a changing environment is contingent not only on the level of existing genetic variation within that population, but also on the gene flow received from differently adapted populations. Effective pollen-mediated gene flow among plant populations requires synchrony of flowering. Therefore differences in timing of flowering among genetically divergent populations may reduce their ability to adapt to environmental change. To determine whether gene flow among differently adapted populations of native Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) in Scotland was restricted by differences in their flowering phenology, we measured timing of pollen release among populations spanning a steep environmental gradient over three consecutive seasons (2014–2016). Results showed that, over a distance of 137 km, there were as many as 15.8 days’ difference among populations for the predicted timing of peak pollen shedding, with the earliest development in the warmer west of the country. There was much variation between years, with the earliest development and least synchrony in the warmest year (2014) and latest development and greatest synchrony in the coolest year (2015). Timing was negatively correlated with results from a common-garden experiment, indicative of a pattern of countergradient variation. We conclude that the observed differences in reproductive synchrony were sufficient to limit gene flow via pollen between populations of P. sylvestris at opposite ends of the environmental gradient across Scotland. We also hypothesize that continually warming, or asymmetrically warming spring temperatures will decrease reproductive synchrony among pine populations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5754-5765
Number of pages12
JournalEcology and Evolution
Early online date15 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - 10 Aug 2017

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • assortative mating
  • countergradient variation
  • cumulative link model
  • flowering phenology
  • functional connectivity
  • gene flow
  • Pinus sylvestris
  • pollen
  • reproductive synchrony
  • Scotland


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