Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Name

Forest and Conservation Science

Department or School/College

W.A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation

Committee Chair

Cara Nelson

Commitee Members

Anna Sala, Frida Piper, David Affleck, Solomon Dobrowski


climate change, functional traits, local adaptation, plant adaptation, within-species


University of Montana


As climate changes and drought frequency and intensity increases, understanding how plants respond will be critical both for predicting potential for adaptation to future climate and for implementing effective ecosystem conservation and management at a time of rapid change. However, gaps in knowledge about the extent to which species vary in key traits across their ranges and the evolutionary and physiological mechanisms which underlie this variation limits both theoretical understanding and effective management. The broad theme of this dissertation is to address within-species variation both to improve understanding of adaptation to future climate and inform ecosystem conservation and management. The three chapters in this dissertation contribute to a growing body of literature on genetic and plastic variation in key plant traits across environmental gradients, emphasizing the ecological and practical importance of plant trait variation both among and within provenances. Chapter I focused on identifying genetic variation among and within populations of the iconic tree Araucaria araucana (pewen) across its range in Chile to inform conservation and restoration efforts. Chapter II addressed whether within-species genetic and plastic variation in early plant phenotypes impacts drought survival for two Chilean forbs across a significant precipitation gradient. Chapter III synthesized patterns of within-species and across-species variation for a suite of drought response traits. The chapters in this dissertation are particularly timely as research and management efforts increasingly recognize that species are not a monolith and that characterizing the ecologically, genetically, and practically important variation within species is key to understanding adaptation to current and future climate and informing ecosystem management.



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