Wood anatomy to anticipate the silvicultural potential of future northern sugar maple forests
Trait plasticity supports tree growth and survival in multiple environments and is important at the edges of species ranges, with limited tree growth. Xylem anatomical traits determine sap, nutrient flow and mechanical strength. Trait analysis can provide information on species adaptation to extreme climatic conditions. My project studies xylem anatomical traits over the distribution range of the sugar maple in Quebec, where it finds its northern limit. We intend to understand the links between environmental conditions and wood anatomy in northern populations to determine species adaptation to its environments. 17 sites were inventoried along north-south and east-west gradients from 2019 to 2021. 180 wood disks were sampled, corresponding to 6 trees per site. Wood cores will also be sampled to complete the data. The size, number and distribution patterns of wood conductive cells will be identified by using microscopy and image analysis. Measurements of wood density via X-ray densitometer techniques and wood fiber quality will help to characterize the evolution of wood quality along gradients. Field data will be investigated to describe the variability of wood anatomical traits along latitudinal and longitudinal gradients, link them to climate variations and understand the relationship with wood quality. We expect a higher variability of wood anatomical traits at the northern limit where the inter-annual environmental sensitivity should be higher. We also expect a decrease in fiber quality and wood density northward. Our results will allow determining how the species will respond to climate change at the northern edge and which environmental factor limits wood quality and maple growth in these current populations.