Date of Award


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Applied Ecology (MS)

College, School or Department Name

School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science


Oliver Gailing


The technique of delineating Populus tremuloides (Michx.) clonal colonies based on morphology and phenology has been utilized in many studies and forestry applications since the 1950s. Recently, the availability and robustness of molecular markers has challenged the validity of such approaches for accurate clonal identification. However, genetically sampling an entire stand is largely impractical or impossible. For that reason, it is often necessary to delineate putative genet boundaries for a more selective approach when genetically analyzing a clonal population. Here I re-evaluated the usefulness of phenotypic delineation by: (1) genetically identifying clonal colonies using nuclear microsatellite markers, (2) assessing phenotypic inter- and intraclonal agreement, and (3) determining the accuracy of visible characters to correctly assign ramets to their respective genets. The long-term soil productivity study plot 28 was chosen for analysis and is located in the Ottawa National Forest, MI (46° 37'60.0" N, 89° 12'42.7" W). In total, 32 genets were identified from 181 stems using seven microsatellite markers. The average genet size was 5.5 ramets and six of the largest were selected for phenotypic analyses. Phenotypic analyses included budbreak timing, DBH, bark thickness, bark color or brightness, leaf senescence, leaf serrations, and leaf length ratio. All phenotypic characters, except for DBH, were useful for the analysis of inter- and intraclonal variation and phenotypic delineation. Generally, phenotypic expression was related to genotype with multiple response permutation procedure (MRPP) intraclonal distance values ranging from 0.148 and 0.427 and an observed MRPP delta value=0.221 when the expected delta=0.5. The phenotypic traits, though, overlapped significantly among some clones. When stems were assigned into phenotypic groups, six phenotypic groups were identified with each group containing a dominant genotype or clonal colony. All phenotypic groups contained stems from at least two clonal colonies and no clonal colony was entirely contained within one phenotypic group. These results demonstrate that phenotype varies with genotype and stand clonality can be determined using phenotypic characters, but phenotypic delineation is less precise. I therefore recommend that some genetic identification follow any phenotypic delineation. The amount of genetic identification required for clonal confirmation is likely to vary based on stand and environmental conditions. Further analysis, however, is needed to test these findings in other forest stands and populations.