Application of a dendroecology approach to red spruce provenance trials to study species and population vulnerability to climate change

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University of New Brunswick


Red spruce (Picea rubens) is a tree species unique to the Acadian Forest, providing numerous ecosystem goods and services, including timber for the forest industry. With the expected decline of the species due to climate change, assisted migration of more southern, warm-adapted populations could help maintain the species in New Brunswick, but empirical evidence is lacking. Here, I compared the climate sensitivity of 16 populations of 60-yr-old red spruce trees across provenance trials, using a Bayesian model relating annual growth to historical climate from 1975 to 2018, while controlling explicitly for treelevel competition and size, stand-level development, thinning, blocking design and local soil conditions. Overall, climate explained a small fraction of the interannual growth variation, while stand development, thinning events and tree size were the strongest predictors. Our results do not provide strong support for assisted migration, as all populations displayed similar phenotypical plasticity in response to 45 years of climate variations.