Fine-scale environmental variation contributes to introgression in a three-species spruce hybrid complex

Jill A. Hamilton, Amanda R. De la Torre, Sally N. Aitken

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Hybridization is common for many forest trees, where weak barriers to reproduction obscure species boundaries. We characterized the genomic structure of Picea populations comprising three species spanning two well-known contact zones, the Picea sitchensis × Picea glauca and the P. engelmannii × P. glauca hybrid zones, using a set of 71 candidate-gene single nucleotide polymorphisms. The genetic structure of populations suggests a complex genomic architecture shaped by interspecific gene flow and strong environmental selection, with increased genetic diversity in hybrids. The presence of admixture among all three species suggests that three-way hybrids with mixed ancestry occur where species ranges overlap in transitional environments. Significant clinal variation and associations with climatic variables (including continentality, temperature, and precipitation) differ between hybrid zones, indicating that individual species and their hybrids are adapted to distinct environmental niches. Allele–environmental association analysis revealed that most of the candidate genes with evidence of selection were unique to either the Sitka × white or the Engelmann × white hybrid zones, with few shared between these zones. Management of these widespread and diverse gene pools will be best served through development of climate-based seed transfer, with recommended seed sources informed by a combination of genetic and climatic information for future climates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalTree Genetics and Genomes
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 23 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Admixture
  • Climate change
  • Hybrid zones
  • Local adaptation
  • Spruce

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Horticulture


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