Post-glacial biogeography of trembling aspen inferred from habitat models and genetic variance in quantitative traits
Using species distribution models and information on genetic structure and within-population variance observed in a series of common garden trials, we reconstructed a historical biogeography of trembling aspen in North America. We used an ensemble classifier modelling approach (RandomForest) to reconstruct palaeoclimatic habitat for the periods 21,000, 14,000, 11,000 and 6,000 years before present. Genetic structure and diversity in quantitative traits was evaluated in common garden trials with 43 aspen collections ranging from Minnesota to northern British Columbia. Our main goals were to examine potential recolonisation routes for aspen from southwestern, eastern and Beringian glacial refugia. We further examined if any refugium had stable habitat conditions where aspen clones may have survived multiple glaciations. Our palaeoclimatic habitat reconstructions indicate that aspen may have recolonised boreal Canada and Alaska from refugia in the eastern United States, with separate southwestern refugia for the Rocky Mountain regions. This is further supported by a southeast to northwest gradient of decreasing genetic variance in quantitative traits, a likely result of repeated founder effects. Stable habitat where aspen clones may have survived multiple glaciations was predicted in Mexico and the eastern United States, but not in the west where some of the largest aspen clones have been documented.