Global warming is expected to prolong vegetative growth season in northern areas, thus arising prospects for increased growth of forests. However, growth period length is under genetic control, so that the speed at which forests can adapt to increasing growth season critically constrains their ability to take advantage of improved environmental conditions. In terms of the adaptability, some species might be in a better position than others, e.g. due to larger amounts of gene flow and early maturation.
Using individual-based quantitative genetic simulations we explored the speed at which the adaption might occur and how it depends of species-specific demographic traits. In our analyses mortality of the established trees was found to be in a key position to regulate adaptation speed. In the presence of low mortality of adults, younger, better adapted trees have generally very small chances of getting established.
From economic point of view, forecasts of future forestry yields should account for the slow adaptation to changing climate; increases in forest growth will take place at a slower speed than that of climate change.
Kuparinen A., O. Savolainen O. & F. M. Schurr. Increased mortality can promote evolutionary adaptation of forest trees to climate change. Forest Ecology and Management (in press)