Godineau C., Fririon V., Beudez N., de Coligny F., Courbet F., Ligot G., Oddou-Muratorio S., Sanchez L., Lefèvre F. [2023] A demo-genetic model shows how silviculture reduces natural density-dependent selection in tree populations. Evolutionary Applications, 1-15. DOI: 10.1111/eva.13606
Abstract : 
Biological production systems and conservation programs benefit from and should care for evolutionary processes. Developing evolution-oriented strategies requires knowledge of the evolutionary consequences of management across timescales. Here, we used an individual-based demo-genetic modelling approach to study the interactions and feedback between tree thinning, genetic evolution, and forest stand dynamics. The model combines processes that jointly drive survival and mating success—tree growth, competition and regeneration—with genetic variation of quantitative traits related to these processes. In various management and disturbance scenarios, the evolutionary rates predicted by the coupled demo-genetic model for a growth-related trait, vigor, fit within the range of empirical estimates found in the literature for wild plant and animal populations. We used this model to simulate non-selective silviculture and disturbance scenarios over four generations of trees. We characterized and quantified the effect of thinning frequencies and intensities and length of the management cycle on viability selection driven by competition and fecundity selection. The thinning regimes had a drastic long-term effect on the evolutionary rate of vigor over generations, potentially reaching 84% reduction, depending on management intensity, cycle length and disturbance regime. The reduction of genetic variance by viability selection within each generation was driven by changes in genotypic frequencies rather than by gene diversity, resulting in low-long-term erosion of the variance across generations, despite short-term fluctuations within generations. The comparison among silviculture and disturbance scenarios was qualitatively robust to assumptions on the genetic architecture of the trait. Thus, the evolutionary consequences of management result from the interference between human interventions and natural evolutionary processes. Non-selective thinning, as considered here, reduces the intensity of natural selection, while selective thinning (on tree size or other criteria) might reduce or reinforce it depending on the forester’s tree choice and thinning intensity.