Author ORCID Identifier

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Integrative Life Sciences

First Advisor

Andrew J. Eckert

Second Advisor

Rodney Dyer

Third Advisor

Chris Gough

Fourth Advisor

Derek Johnson

Fifth Advisor

Patricia Maloney

Sixth Advisor

Maria Rivera


Species of trees inhabit diverse and heterogeneous environments, and often play important ecological roles in such communities. As a result of their vast ecological breadth, trees have become adapted to various environmental pressures. In this dissertation I examine various environmental factors that drive evolutionary dynamics in threePinusspecies in California and Nevada, USA. In chapter two, I assess the role of management influence of thinning, fire, and their interaction on fine-scale gene flow within fire-suppressed populations of Pinus lambertiana, a historically dominant and ecologically important member of mixed-conifer forests of the Sierra Nevada, California. Here, I find evidence that treatment prescription differentially affects fine-scale genetic structure and effective gene flow in this species. In my third chapter, I describe the development of a dense linkage map for Pinus balfouriana which I use in chapter four to assess the quantitative trait locus (QTL) landscape of water-use efficiency across two isolated ranges of the species. I find evidence that precipitation-related variables structure the geographical range of P. balfouriana, that traits related to water-use efficiency are heritable and differentiated across populations, and associated QTLs underlying this phenotypic variation explain large proportions of total variation. In chapter five, I assess evidence for local adaptation to the eastern Sierra Nevada rain shadow within P. albicaulisacross fine spatial scales of the Lake Tahoe Basin, USA. Here, genetic variation of traits related to water availability were structured more so across populations than neutral variation, and loci identified by genome-wide association methods show elevated signals of local adaptation that track soil water availability. In chapter six, I review theory related to polygenic local adaptation and literature of genotype-phenotype associations in trees. I find that evidence suggests a polygenic basis for many traits important to conservation and industry, and I suggest paths forward to best describing such genetic bases in tree species. Overall, my results show that spatial and genetic structure of trees are often driven by their environment, and that ongoing selective pressures driven by environmental change will continue to be important in these systems.


I wish to thank my amazing wife, Sevima, and daughter, Ella Marie; without them none of this would be possible. To Andrew Eckert, my advisor, who was a fantastic mentor and friend. To all of my committee members and many collaborators that helped produce great science. And to the students and faculty of VCU who created such a great environment to work, learn, and grow. Thank you!


© Brandon M. Lind

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