Landscape genomic insights into the historic migration of mountain hemlock in response to Holocene climate change Academic Article uri icon


  • PREMISE OF THE STUDY: Untangling alternative historic dispersal pathways in long-lived tree species is critical to better understand how temperate tree species may respond to climatic change. However, disentangling these alternative pathways is often difficult. Emerging genomic technologies and landscape genetics techniques improve our ability to assess these pathways in natural systems. We address the question to what degree have microrefugial patches and long-distance dispersal been responsible for the colonization of mountain hemlock (Tsuga mertensiana) on the Alaskan Kenai Peninsula. METHODS: We used double-digest restriction-associated DNA sequencing (ddRADseq) to identify genetic variants across eight mountain hemlock sample sites on the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska. We assessed genetic diversity and linkage disequilibrium using landscape and population genetics approaches. Alternative historic dispersal pathways were assessed using discriminant analysis of principle components and electrical circuit theory. KEY RESULTS: A combination of decreasing diversity, high gene flow, and landscape connectivity indicates that mountain hemlock colonization on the Kenai Peninsula is the result of long-distance dispersal. We found that contemporary climate best explained gene flow patterns and that isolation by resistance was a better model explaining genetic variation than isolation by distance. CONCLUSIONS: Our findings support the conclusion that mountain hemlock colonization is the result of several long-distance dispersal events following Pleistocene glaciation. The high dispersal capability suggests that mountain hemlock may be able to respond to future climate change and expand its range as new habitat opens along its northern distribution.

altmetric score

  • 10.4

author list (cited authors)

  • Johnson, J. S., Gaddis, K. D., Cairns, D. M., Konganti, K., & Krutovsky, K. V.

citation count

  • 19

publication date

  • March 2017