Seed dispersal at alpine treeline: an assessment of seed movement within the alpine treeline ecotone
Zitierfähiger Link (URL): http://resolver.sub.uni-goettingen.de/purl?gs-1/14408
Alpine treelines are expected to advance to higher elevations in conjunction with global warming. Nevertheless, the importance of treeline reproductive patterns and seed dispersal within the alpine treeline ecotone remains unresolved. In this study, we address two research questions at mountain hemlock treelines on the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska: (1) What is the primary mode of reproduction and (2) are seeds leading to recruitment derived from within the local treeline populations or are they arriving from more distant seed sources? To answer these questions, we exhaustively sampled mountain hemlock individuals along a single mountain slope, and genotyped single nucleotide polymorphisms using doubledigest restriction site-associated DNA sequencing. First, we assessed mode of reproduction by determining the proportion of sampled individuals with identical multilocus genotypes that are the product of clonal reproduction. Second, we used a categorical parentage analysis to identify parent–offspring pairs, so that the proportion of treeline reproduction events could be spatially quantified and dispersal distance measured. We identified sexual reproduction as the primary mode of reproduction at our study site. Seedling establishment was characterized by extensive seed immigration and gene flow into the ecotone. The average dispersal distance was 73 m with long-distance dispersal identified as dispersal occurring at distances greater than 450 m. We found that production of seeds within the alpine treeline ecotone is not necessarily a requirement for treelines to advance to higher elevations in response to climate change. The extensive seed dispersal and gene flow into the alpine treeline ecotone is likely sufficient to propel the ecotone higher under more favorable climate.