Forests (Mar 2022)
Population Variability of Almond-Leaved Willow (<i>Salix triandra</i> L.) Based on the Leaf Morphometry: Isolation by Distance and Environment Explain Phenotypic Diversity
Almond-leaved willow (Salix triandra L., Salicaceae) is a dioecious shrub, rarely a small tree that grows under various environmental conditions. We examined the population structure of 12 populations of almond-leaved willow using nine leaf morphological traits and specific leaf area. Populations were selected from a range of habitats, from continental to the sub-Mediterranean zone, to examine the influence of environmental conditions (climate and altitude) and geographic distance on leaf variability. Significant differences were confirmed among all populations for all traits, with significant correlations between geographic location of populations and morphological traits, and between environmental conditions and morphological traits. Large-leaved populations were found in continental and sub-Mediterranean climates, while small-leaved populations were found in higher elevations and smaller karstic rivers. In addition, populations from floodplains showed greater variability than populations from the karstic habitats, indicating a positive influence of lowland habitats and possible underlying differences in gene pool size. In conclusion, we found that environmental conditions and geographical distances in addition to genetic drift, are the main influences on the variability in almond-leaved willow, with the species showing a high level of plasticity and adaptation to local environmental conditions.