Study shows how aspen forests maintain the diversity needed to adapt to changing environments


Lead researcher Olivia Cope holds on to two aspen trees in the experimental plots. The two trees are the same age, but the larger tree is genetically predisposed to focus on growth, outcompeting its smaller neighbor. Over time, the faster-growing trees survived better, changing the genetic structure of the forest. Photo credit: Rick Lindroth

A decade-long study by University of Wisconsin­–Madison researchers, including Botany’s Ken Keefover-Ring, reveals how aspen stands change their genetic structure over the years as trees balance defending themselves from pests with growth to compete for sunlight. The findings are valuable for conservation biologists who want to preserve diverse forest ecosystems in the face of global warming, invasive species and other environmental changes.


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