Populations are locally adapted when populations have the highest relative fitness at their home sites, and lower fitness in other parts of the range. Results from the extensive experimental plantations of populations of forest trees from different parts of the range show that populations can survive and grow in broad areas outside the home site. However, intra- and interspecific competition limit the distribution of genotypes. For populations from large parts of the range, relative fitness, compared with the local population, is often highest at the home site. At the edges of the range, this local adaptation may break down. The extent of local adaptation is determined by the balance between gene flow and selection. Genetic differentiation and strong natural selection occur over a range of tens or hundreds of kilometers, but reliable measurements of gene flow are available only for much shorter distances. Current models of spatially varying selection could be made more realistic by the incorporation of strong selection and isolation-by-distance characteristic of tree populations. Many studies suggest that most variation in adaptive traits is based on loci with small effects. Association genetics methods and improved genomic resources are useful for the identification of the loci responsible for this variation. The potential for adaptation to current climate change depends on genetic variation and dispersal and establishment rates.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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