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Using among-year variation to assess maternal effects in Pinus aristata and Pinus flexilis

Posted date: July 08, 2015
Publication Year: 
Authors: Borgman, Erin M.; Schoettle, Anna W.; Angert, Amy L.
Publication Series: 
Scientific Journal (JRNL)
Source: Botany. 92: 805-814.


Maternal effects, the effect of the maternal environment during development on offspring growth, can complicate the interpretation of common garden studies. Growing one or more generations in a common environment can help minimize maternal effects, but is often not practical with long-lived species. In Pinus aristata Engelm. and Pinus flexilis James, we assessed maternal effects by growing offspring sourced over multiple years from the same mother trees, comparing growth traits between source years. Additionally, we explored the effect of maternal environment on seed characteristics by collecting five twig clippings from each mother tree and measuring characteristics indicative of the relative vigor of the tree during each seed source year. The effect of year was significant for twig growth characteristics, seed size, and seedling performance. For both species, there were significant relationships between the relative inter-annual (RIA) variation in seed mass and the RIA variation in numerous seedling traits including cotyledon length, seedling total dry mass, and needle length. Variation in seed mass was not predicted by yearly variation in the maternal plant’s phenotypic traits. These results support the hypothesis that maternal effects translate into variation in early seedling growth and suggest possibilities to statistically account for them in common garden studies involving long-lived species.


Borgman, Erin M.; Schoettle, Anna W.; Angert, Amy L. 2014. Using among-year variation to assess maternal effects in Pinus aristata and Pinus flexilis. Botany. 92: 805-814.