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Cobo-Simón, I., Méndez-Cea, B., Seco, J.I., Wegrzyn, J., Linares, J.C., Gallego, F.J.

Gene frequency shift in relict abies pinsapo forests associated with drought-induced mortality: Preliminary evidence of local-scale divergent selection

(2021) Forests, 12 (9), art. no. 1220

DOI: 10.3390/f12091220


Current climate change constitutes a challenge for the survival of several drought-sensitive forests. The study of the genetic basis of adaptation offers a suitable way to understand how tree species may respond to future climatic conditions, as well as to design suitable conservation and management strategies. Here, we focus on selected genetic signatures of the drought-sensitive relict fir, Abies pinsapo Boiss. Field sampling of 156 individuals was performed in two elevation ecotones, characterized by widespread A. pinsapo decline and mortality. The DNA from dead trees was investigated and compared to living individuals, accounting for different ages and elevations. We studied the genes gated outwardly-rectifying K+ (GORK) channel and Plasma membrane Intrinsic Protein (PIP1) aquaporin, previously related to drought response in plant model species, to test whether drought was the main abiotic factor driving the decline of A. pinsapo forests. A combination of linear regression and factor models were used to test these selection signatures, as well as a fixation index (Fst), used here to analyze the genetic structure. The results were consistent among these approaches, supporting a statistically significant association of the GORK gene with survival in one of the A. pinsapo populations. These results provide preliminary evidence for the potential role of the GORK gene in the resilience to drought of A. pinsapo.