Rare species present a challenge under changing environmental conditions as the genetic consequences of rarity may limit species ability to adapt to environmental change. To evaluate the evolutionary potential of a rare species, we assessed variation in traits important to plant fitness using multigenerational common garden experiments. Torrey pine, Pinus torreyana Parry, is one of the rarest pines in the world, restricted to one mainland and one island population. Morphological differentiation between island and mainland populations suggests adaptation to local environments may have contributed to trait variation. The distribution of phenotypic variances within the common garden suggests distinct population-specific growth trajectories underlay genetic differences, with the island population exhibiting substantially reduced genetic variance for growth relative to the mainland population. Furthermore, F1 hybrids, representing a cross between mainland and island trees, exhibit increased height accumulation and fecundity relative to mainland and island parents. This may indicate genetic rescue via intraspecific hybridization could provide the necessary genetic variation to persist in environments modified as a result of climate change. Long-term common garden experiments, such as these, provide invaluable resources to assess the distribution of genetic variance that may inform conservation strategies to preserve evolutionary potential of rare species, including genetic rescue.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Nature and Landscape Conservation