The Long-Distance Gene Flow of Trees
Kremer, A., Ronce, O., Robledo-Arnuncio, J.J., Guillaume, F., Bohrer, G., Nathan, R., Bridle, J.R., Gomulkiewicz, R., Klein, E.K., Ritland, K., Kuparinen, A., Gerber, S. and Schueler, S. 2012. Long-distance gene flow and adaptation of forest trees to rapid climate change. Ecology Letters 15: 378-392.
Noting the deficiencies of the bioclimatic envelope approach to predicting the potential geographic distribution of a species in a particular climatic scenario, the thirteen researchers satisfied themselves that "estimates of long-distance gene flow based both on direct observations and on genetic methods provide evidence that genes can move over spatial scales larger than habitat shifts predicted under climate change within one generation." In fact, they write that "both theoretical and empirical data suggest that the positive effects of gene flow on adaptation may dominate in many instances."
In light of the results of their various analyses, Kremer et al. conclude that "many tree species have evolved dispersal syndromes enabling the effective flow of genetic information across distant populations inhabiting contrasting environments," and they say that these exchanges "may in the case of forest trees favor adaptation to changing climatic conditions, compensating for their long-generation time." Thus, they propose that researchers in this field should focus on "future experimental and theoretical research that would better integrate dispersal biology with evolutionary quantitative genetics," which efforts they feel would greatly improve predictions of tree responses to climate change.