Mike Feduck, Philippe Henry, Richard Winder, David Dunn, René I Alfaro, Lara vanAkker, Brad Hawkes
Wildfires and mountain pine beetle (MPB) attacks are important contributors to the development of stand structure in lodgepole pine, and major drivers of its evolution. The historical pattern of these events have been correlated with variation in cone serotiny (possessing cones that remain closed and retain seeds until opened by fire) across the Rocky Mountain region of Western North America. As climate change brings about a marked increase in the size, intensity, and severity of our wildfires, it is becoming increasingly important to study the genetic basis of serotiny as an adaptation to wildfire. Knowledge gleaned from these studies would have direct implications for forest management in the future, and for the future. In this study, we collected physical data and DNA samples from 122 trees of two different areas in the IDF-dk of British Columbia; multi-cohort stands (Cariboo-Chilcotin) with a history of mixed-severity fire and frequent MPB disturbances, and single-cohort stands (Logan Lake) with a history of stand replacing (crown) fire and infrequent MPB disturbances. We used QuantiNemo to construct simulated populations of lodgepole pine at five different growth rates, and compared the statistical outputs to physical data, then ran a random forest analysis to shed light on sources of variation in serotiny. We also sequenced 39 SNPs, of which 23 failed or were monomorphic. The 16 informative SNPs were used to calculate HO and HE, which were included alongside genotypes for a second random forest analysis. Our best random forest model explained 33% of variation in serotiny, using simulation and physical variables. Our results highlight the need for more investigation into this matter, using more extensive approaches, and also consideration of alternative methods of heredity such as epigenetics.