Highlights: Silvicultural practices of raising and outplanting seedlings yielded contrasting outcomes in our species; Afforested Pinus brutia populations acquired ability to tolerate drought stress at intermediate and hot temperatures compared to natural populations, which may indicate local adaptation; Natural Cupressus sempervirens populations showed higher salt-tolerance than afforested populations; Seed germination was optimal under intermediate temperatures and deionized water for both species.
In afforestation, silvicultural processes of raising and planting seedlings under certain conditions can yield contrasting outcomes in tree stock performance. Moderate nursery conditions may select against stress tolerance whereas planting seedlings in stressful environments at afforestation sites may select for higher stress tolerance compared to natural populations. We compared germination performance between natural and afforested populations of Pinus brutia Ten. subsp. brutia and Cupressus sempervirens L. var. horizontalis (Mill.) under differing stress treatments. Seeds were collected from both natural stands and from afforested populations outside the natural distribution range, in Syria. Cold, intermediate and hot temperature regimes were simulated (8/4 °C, 20/10 °C and 32/20 °C) along with cold stratification, drought stress (–0.2 and –0.4 MPa), salt stress (50 and 100 mMol l–1), and deionized water (control) conditions. In addition, we tested the effects of seed weight and climatic conditions on seed germination. In general, intermediate temperatures were optimal for both population types. Afforested P. brutia populations outperformed natural ones under drought stress levels at hot and/or intermediate temperatures. Conversely, in C. sempervirens, cold stratification at all temperatures and higher salt stress at intermediate temperatures significantly decreased germination in afforested populations. Seed weight did not significantly affect germination percentages, which were however significantly negatively related to annual precipitation in P. brutia, and to annual temperature in C. sempervirens. We infer that silvicultural processes led to divergent outcomes in our species: local adaptation to drought stress and hot temperatures in afforested P. brutia populations and lower salt-stress tolerance in C. sempervirens.