Ecological traits of the circumboreal plant Viburnum opulus were examined to improve understanding of the variation of populations occurring in the same biome but on different continents. Seedling development/emergence is shown to be highly similar but some degree of variation was present in other traits, among populations.
Background and aims
Temperate forests are disjunct in the Northern Hemisphere, having become fragmented from the earlier widespread (Tertiary) boreotropical forest. We asked ‘What are the contemporary patterns of population variation in ecological traits of a Tertiary relict in a macroecological context?’. This issue underpins our understanding of variation in populations occurring in the same biome but on different continents.
We examined characters associated with root and shoot emergences among populations of Viburnum opulus in temperate forests of Asia, North America and Europe. This species has complex seedling emergence extending over several years and requiring various temperature cues.
Populations varied in germination responses and clustered into groups that were only partly related to varietal status. Whereas roots (at warm temperatures) and shoots (following a cold period) simultaneously emerged from seeds of all populations when simulated dispersal occurred in winter, they were delayed in some populations when dispersal occurred in summer.
Viburnum opulus populations, some separated by 10 300 km, showed high similarity in seedling development and in germination phenology, and we suggest that stabilizing selection has played a key role in maintaining similar dormancy mechanisms. Nevertheless, there was some degree of variation in other germination characters, suggesting local adaptation.