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Assessing tree germination resilience to global warming: a manipulative experiment using sugar maple (Acer saccharum)

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 March 2016

Kevin A. Solarik*
Centre d’étude de la forêt (CEF), Département des sciences biologiques, Université du Québec à Montréal, Montréal, QC, Canada H3P 3P8
Dominique Gravel
Université du Québec à Rimouski, Département de biologie, chimie et géographie, 300 Alleée des Ursulines, Rimouski, Québec, CanadaG5L 3A1
Aitor Ameztegui
Centre d’étude de la forêt (CEF), Département des sciences biologiques, Université du Québec à Montréal, Montréal, QC, Canada H3P 3P8 CREAF, Centre for Ecological Research and Forestry Applications, Autonomous University of Barcelona, Cerdanyola del Vallès, Catalonia E-08193, Spain Forest Sciences Centre of Catalonia (CEMFOR-CTFC), Ctra. Sant Llorenç de Morunys km.2, Solsona, Catalonia E-25280, Spain
Yves Bergeron
Centre d’étude de la forêt (CEF), Département des sciences biologiques, Université du Québec à Montréal, Montréal, QC, Canada H3P 3P8 Département des Sciences Biologiques, Chaire Industrielle CRSNG UQAT-UQAM en Aménagement Forestier Durable, Centre d'Etude de la Foret, Université du Québec à Montréal, Montréal, PQ, Canada
Christian Messier
Centre d’étude de la forêt (CEF), Département des sciences biologiques, Université du Québec à Montréal, Montréal, QC, Canada H3P 3P8 Département des Sciences naturelles, Institut des Sciences de la Forêt Tempérée (ISFORT), Université du Québec en Outaouais (UQO), Ripon, PQ, Canada, J0V 1V0
*Correspondence Email:


A climate warming of 2–5°C by the end of the century will impact the likelihood of seed germination of sugar maple (Acer saccharum), a dominant tree species which possesses a restricted temperature range to ensure successful reproduction. We hypothesize that seed origin affects germination due to the species' local adaptation to temperature. We tested this by experimentally investigating the effect of incubation temperature and temperature shifting on sugar maple seed germination from seven different seed sources representing the current species range. Survival analysis showed that seeds from the northern range had the highest germination percentage, while the southern range had the lowest. The mean germination percentage under constant temperatures was best when temperatures were ≤5°C, whereas germination percentages plummeted at temperatures ≥11°C (5.8%). Cool shifting increased germination by 19.1% over constant temperature treatments and by 29.3% over warm shifting treatments. Both shifting treatments caused earlier germination relative to the constant temperature treatments. A climate warming of up to +5°C is shown to severely reduce germination of seeds from the southern range. However, under a more pronounced warming of 7°C, seed germination at the northern range become more affected and now comparable to those found from the southern range. This study states that the high seed germination percentage found in sugar maple at the northern range makes it fairly resilient to the warmest projected temperature increase for the next century. These findings provide forest managers with the necessary information to make accurate projections when considering strategies for future regeneration while also considering climate warming.

Research Papers
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2016 

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