iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry


Universal reaction norms for the sustainable cultivation of hybrid poplar clones under climate change in Italy

Maurizio Marchi (1), Sara Bergante (2)   , Duncan Ray (3), Roberto Barbetti (2), Gianni Facciotto (2), Pier Mario Chiarabaglio (2), Jari Hynynen (4), Giuseppe Nervo (2)

iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry, Volume 15, Issue 1, Pages 47-55 (2022)
doi: https://doi.org/10.3832/ifor3989-015
Published: Feb 08, 2022 - Copyright © 2022 SISEF

Research Articles

The cultivation of hybrid poplar clones is increasing worldwide. Hundreds of hectares of plantations now occur across Europe and other continents such as North America, using tested clones and novel genotypes. Research effort aims are to develop fast growing disease- and pest-resistant clones to improve production quality and quantity. In this study the phenotypic plasticity of poplar clones was tested across environmental and temporal gradients. The growth performance of 49 hybrid poplar clones recorded between 1980 and 2021 was analysed using a mixed-effects model with climatic data as a predictor variable. Clones were aggregated into two groups according to their breeding protocol (i.e., standard clone, and improved material) and their growth modelled for future climate scenarios of RCPs 2.6 and 8.5 using a downscaled version of the variants 01 and 21 of UKCP18 climate projections dataset for three 30-year normal period time-slices: 2030s, 2040s, 2050s. The fitted growth models showed highly significant results, explaining more than 85% of the variance, with a mean relative absolute error of approximately 2%. Improved material showed more resistance to warmer and drier climates and less sensitivity to the changing climate. While no unique pattern was found when comparing growth performances, new improved clones were more productive than older clones (e.g., “I-214”) with an additional benefit of resistance to rust and pests. Spatial predictions confirmed the Po valley as the most important geographic area for poplar cultivation in Italy, but zones in Central and Southern Italy show potential. However, the Po Valley is also where poplars are predicted to be suitable in the next decades with large uncertainties. The analysis identified the need for more research on the topic of poplar breeding. For example, models using the most extreme (warm and dry) climate projection, variant 01 of RCP8.5 of the UKCP18, exceeded the historic climate threshold, and predictions used model extrapolation, with associated statistical uncertainty. Therefore, predictions should be considered with care and more research effort is required to test clones over wider environmental conditions.


Forest Tree Breeding, ClimateDT, Universal Response Function, B4EST

Authors’ address

Maurizio Marchi 0000-0002-6134-1744
CNR, Institute of Biosciences and BioResources - IBBR, Division of Florence, v. Madonna del Piano 10, I-50019 Sesto Fiorentino, FI (Italy)
Duncan Ray 0000-0002-8975-8728
Centre for Ecosystems Society and Biosecurity, Forest Research, Roslin, EH25 9SY Scotland (UK)
Jari Hynynen 0000-0002-9132-8612
Natural Resources Institute Finland - LUKE, Latokartanonkaari 9, FI-00790 Helsinki (Finland)

Corresponding author



Marchi M, Bergante S, Ray D, Barbetti R, Facciotto G, Chiarabaglio PM, Hynynen J, Nervo G (2022). Universal reaction norms for the sustainable cultivation of hybrid poplar clones under climate change in Italy. iForest 15: 47-55. - doi: 10.3832/ifor3989-015

Academic Editor

Gianfranco Minotta

Paper history

Received: Oct 04, 2021
Accepted: Jan 12, 2022

First online: Feb 08, 2022
Publication Date: Feb 28, 2022
Publication Time: 0.90 months

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