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1.  Hybridization of common reed in North America? The answer is blowing in the wind 
AoB Plants  2012;2012:pls022.
Hybridization of Phragmites has occurred in the Gulf Coast and likely is occurring elsewhere in North America. However, detection failure may be due to limited genetic tools. Additionally, nomenclature confusion necessitates a revision of the current classification system.
Background and aims
We review evidence for hybridization of Phragmites australis in North America and the implications for the persistence of native P. australis ssp. americanus populations in North America. We also highlight the need for an updated classification system, which takes P. australis intraspecific variation and hybridization into account.
Methodology
We reviewed available published, in press and in preparation literature to assess the likelihood of hybridization and interbreeding in genotypes of P. australis present in North America.
Principal results
Experimental results demonstrate that hybridization among introduced and native haplotypes is possible within the genus Phragmites, yet evidence that hybridization has occurred naturally is only starting to emerge. The lag in identifying hybridization in Phragmites in North America may be related to under-sampling in some parts of North America and to a lack of molecular tools that provide the capability to recognize hybrids.
Conclusions
Our understanding of the gene flow within and between species in the genus Phragmites is moving at a fast pace, especially on the east and Gulf coasts of North America. More attention should also be focused on the Great Lakes region, the southwestern and the west coast of the USA, where sympatry has created opportunities for hybridization. Where hybridizations have been detected, there are currently no published data on how hybridization affects plant vigour, morphology, invasiveness or conservation of the genetic integrity of the North American native subspecies. We conclude that the detection of more hybridization is highly likely and that there is a need to develop new markers for the different Phragmites species and lineages to fill current knowledge gaps. Finally, we suggest that the classification system for P. australis should be updated and published to help clarify the nomenclature.
doi:10.1093/aobpla/pls022
PMCID: PMC3444738  PMID: 22993684
2.  Phenotypic traits of Phragmites australis clones are not related to ploidy level and distribution range 
AoB Plants  2012;2012:pls017.
The present study reveals significant genetically determined differences in a range of growth and ecophysiological traits between different Phragmites australis genotypes, and provides evidence that the differences are neither related to ploidy level per se nor to the phylogeographic relationships of the genotypes.
Background and aims
Phragmites australis is a wetland grass with high genetic variability, augmented by its cosmopolitan distribution, clonal growth form and large variation in chromosome numbers. Different ploidy levels and ecotypes differ in morphology and ecophysiological traits, and may possess different levels of phenotypic variation. The aim of this study was to quantify the natural variation in ecophysiological characteristics of P. australis, and to explore whether differences in ecophysiological traits can be related to ploidy levels or to the geographic origin of the clones.
Methodology
Fifteen clones of P. australis from Europe and Asia/Australia, representing five ploidy levels (4x, 6x, 8x, 10x and 12x), were grown in a common garden design for 119 days. Plant growth and light-saturated rate of photosynthesis (Pmax), stomatal conductance (gs), water use efficiency (WUE) and concentrations of photosynthetic pigments and mineral ions in the leaves were measured.
Principal results
The growth of the plants and most ecophysiological parameters differed significantly between clones. The mean maximum shoot height varied from 0.9 to 1.86 m, Pmax from 9.7 to 27 µmol m−2 s−1, gs from 0.22 to 1.41 mol m−2 s−1 and WUE from 13 to 47 µmol mol−1. The concentrations of chlorophylls did not vary significantly between clones, but the chlorophyll a/b ratio and the concentrations of total carotenoids did. The observed differences were not explained either by the ploidy level per se or by the geographic origin or phylogenetic relationships of the clones.
Conclusions
Phylogeographic relationships in P. australis on a global scale do not mirror the environment where the adaptations have evolved, and high phenotypic variation among and within clones complicates comparative studies. Future studies aimed at explaining differences in plant behaviour between P. australis populations should be careful in the selection of target genotypes and/or populations, and should avoid generalizing their findings beyond the genotypes and/or populations studied.
doi:10.1093/aobpla/pls017
PMCID: PMC3407373  PMID: 22848787
3.  Moving from a regional to a continental perspective of Phragmites australis invasion in North America 
AoB Plants  2012;2012:pls040.
Here we describe the results of a regional comparison of introduced Phragmites australis and two other P. australis lineages found in North America. The regional similarities and differences in introduced P. australis invasion highlight the importance of continental-scale studies for decoding plant invasions.
Aims
We use a regional comparison of Phragmites australis (common reed) subsp. americanus, P. australis subsp. berlandieri and introduced P. australis (possibly five sublineages) in the Chesapeake Bay, the St Lawrence River, Utah and the Gulf Coast to inform a North American perspective on P. australis invasion patterns, drivers, impacts and research needs.
Findings and research needs
Our regional assessments reveal substantial diversity within and between the three main lineages of P. australis in terms of mode of reproduction and the types of environment occupied. For introduced P. australis, the timing of introduction also differed between the regions. Nevertheless, a common finding in these regions reinforces the notion that introduced P. australis is opportunistic and thrives in disturbed habitats. Thus, we expect to see substantial expansion of introduced P. australis with increasing anthropogenic disturbances in each of these regions. Although there have been some studies documenting the negative impacts of introduced P. australis, it also plays a beneficial role in some regions, and in some cases, the purported negative impacts are unproven. There is also a broader need to clarify the genetic and ecological relationships between the different introduced sublineages observed in North America, and their relative competitive ability and potential for admixture. This may be done through regional studies that use similar methodologies and share results to uncover common patterns and processes. To our knowledge, such studies have not been performed on P. australis in spite of the broad attention given to this species. Such research could advance theoretical knowledge on biological invasion by helping to determine the extent to which the patterns observed can be generalized or are sublineage specific or region specific.
Synthesis
Given what appears to be sometimes idiosyncratic invasion patterns when interpreted in isolation in the regions that we analysed, it may be time to consider initiatives on a continental (if not intercontinental) scale to tackle unresolved issues about P. australis.
doi:10.1093/aobpla/pls040
PMCID: PMC3676263  PMID: 23755351
4.  Spatial Genetic Structure in Natural Populations of Phragmites australis in a Mosaic of Saline Habitats in the Yellow River Delta, China 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(8):e43334.
Determination of spatial genetic structure (SGS) in natural populations is important for both theoretical aspects of evolutionary genetics and their application in species conservation and ecological restoration. In this study, we examined genetic diversity within and among the natural populations of a cosmopolitan grass Phragmites australis (common reed) in the Yellow River Delta (YRD), China, where a mosaic of habitat patches varying in soil salinity was detected. We demonstrated that, despite their close geographic proximity, the common reed populations in the YRD significantly diverged at six microsatellite loci, exhibiting a strong association of genetic variation with habitat heterogeneity. Genetic distances among populations were best explained as a function of environmental difference, rather than geographical distance. Although the level of genetic divergence among populations was relatively low (F’ST = 0.073), weak but significant genetic differentiation, as well as the concordance between ecological and genetic landscapes, suggests spatial structuring of genotypes in relation to patchy habitats. These findings not only provided insights into the population dynamics of common reed in changing environments, but also demonstrated the feasibility of using habitat patches in a mosaic landscape as test systems to identify appropriate genetic sources for ecological restoration.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0043334
PMCID: PMC3420903  PMID: 22916244
5.  Only a Few Fungal Species Dominate Highly Diverse Mycofloras Associated with the Common Reed 
Plants are naturally colonized by many fungal species that produce effects ranging from beneficial to pathogenic. However, how many of these fungi are linked with a single host plant has not been determined. Furthermore, the composition of plant-associated fungal communities has not been rigorously determined. We investigated these essential issues by employing the perennial wetland reed Phragmites australis as a model. DNA extracted from roots, rhizomes, stems, and leaves was used for amplification and cloning of internal transcribed spacer rRNA gene fragments originating from reed-associated fungi. A total of 1,991 clones from 15 clone libraries were differentiated by restriction fragment length polymorphism analyses into 345 operational taxonomical units (OTUs). Nonparametric estimators for total richness (Chao1 and ACE) and also a parametric log normal model predicted a total of about 750 OTUs if the libraries were infinite. Sixty-two percent of the OTUs sequenced were novel at a threshold of 3%. Several of these OTUs represented undocumented fungal species, which also included higher taxonomic levels. In spite of the high diversity of the OTUs, the mycofloras of vegetative organs were dominated by just a few typical fungi, which suggested that competition and niche differentiation influence the composition of plant-associated fungal communities. This suggestion was independently supported by the results of nested PCR assays specifically monitoring two OTUs over 3 years, which revealed significant preferences for host habitat and host organ.
doi:10.1128/AEM.72.2.1118-1128.2006
PMCID: PMC1392925  PMID: 16461657
6.  Soil pathogen communities associated with native and non-native Phragmites australis populations in freshwater wetlands 
Ecology and Evolution  2013;3(16):5254-5267.
Soil pathogens are believed to be major contributors to negative plant–soil feedbacks that regulate plant community dynamics and plant invasions. While the theoretical basis for pathogen regulation of plant communities is well established within the plant–soil feedback framework, direct experimental evidence for pathogen community responses to plants has been limited, often relying largely on indirect evidence based on above-ground plant responses. As a result, specific soil pathogen responses accompanying above-ground plant community dynamics are largely unknown. Here, we examine the oomycete pathogens in soils conditioned by established populations of native noninvasive and non-native invasive haplotypes of Phragmites australis (European common reed). Our aim was to assess whether populations of invasive plants harbor unique communities of pathogens that differ from those associated with noninvasive populations and whether the distribution of taxa within these communities may help to explain invasive success. We compared the composition and abundance of pathogenic and saprobic oomycete species over a 2-year period. Despite a diversity of oomycete taxa detected in soils from both native and non-native populations, pathogen communities from both invaded and noninvaded soils were dominated by species of Pythium. Pathogen species that contributed the most to the differences observed between invaded and noninvaded soils were distributed between invaded and noninvaded soils. However, the specific taxa in invaded soils responsible for community differences were distinct from those in noninvaded soils that contributed to community differences. Our results indicate that, despite the phylogenetic relatedness of native and non-native P. australis haplotypes, pathogen communities associated with the dominant non-native haplotype are distinct from those of the rare native haplotype. Pathogen taxa that dominate either noninvaded or invaded soils suggest different potential mechanisms of invasion facilitation. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that non-native plant species that dominate landscapes may “cultivate” a different soil pathogen community to their rhizosphere than those of rarer native species.
doi:10.1002/ece3.900
PMCID: PMC3892333  PMID: 24455153
Oomycetes; plant invasions; plant–soil feedbacks.
7.  Vegetative Ecological Characteristics of Restored Reed (Phragmites australis) Wetlands in the Yellow River Delta, China 
Environmental Management  2011;49(2):325-333.
In this study, we compared ecological characteristics of wetland vegetation in a series of restoration projects that were carried out in the wetlands of Yellow River Delta. The investigated characteristics include plant composition structure, species diversity and community similarity in three kinds of Phragmites australis wetlands, i.e. restored P. australis wetlands (R1, R2, R3 and R4: restored in 2002, 2005, 2007 and 2009, respectively), natural P. australis wetland (N) and degraded P. australis wetland (D) to assess the process of wetlands restoration. The coverage of the R1 was 99%, which was similar to natural wetland. Among all studied wetlands, the highest and lowest stem density was observed in R1 and R2, respectively, Plant height and stem diameter show the same trend as N > R2 > R1 > R3 > D > R4. Species diversity of restored P. australis wetlands became closed to natural wetland. Both species richness and Shannon–Wiener index had similar tendency: increased first and then decreased with restored time. The highest species richness and species diversity were observed in R2, while the lowest values of those parameters were found in natural P. australis wetland. Similarity indexes between restored wetlands and natural wetland increased with the restoration time, but they were still less than 50%. The results indicate that the vegetation of P. australis wetlands has experienced a great improvement after several years’ restoration, and it is feasible to restored degraded P. australis wetlands by pouring fresh water into those wetlands in the Yellow River Delta. However, it is notable that costal degraded P. australis wetland in this region may take years to decades to reach the status of natural wetland.
doi:10.1007/s00267-011-9757-6
PMCID: PMC3260433  PMID: 21968874
Coastal wetland; Wetland restoration; Yellow River Delta; Vegetation characteristics; Species diversity
8.  Positive Effects of Nonnative Invasive Phragmites australis on Larval Bullfrogs 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(8):e44420.
Background
Nonnative Phragmites australis (common reed) is one of the most intensively researched and managed invasive plant species in the United States, yet as with many invasive species, our ability to predict, control or understand the consequences of invasions is limited. Rapid spread of dense Phragmites monocultures has prompted efforts to limit its expansion and remove existing stands. Motivation for large-scale Phragmites eradication programs includes purported negative impacts on native wildlife, a view based primarily on observational results. We took an experimental approach to test this assumption, estimating the effects of nonnative Phragmites australis on a native amphibian.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Concurrent common garden and reciprocal transplant field experiments revealed consistently strong positive influences of Phragmites on Rana catesbeiana (North American bullfrog) larval performance. Decomposing Phragmites litter appears to contribute to the effect.
Conclusions/Significance
Positive effects of Phragmites merit further research, particularly in regions where both Phragmites and R. catesbeiana are invasive. More broadly, the findings of this study reinforce the importance of experimental evaluations of the effects of biological invasion to make informed conservation and restoration decisions.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0044420
PMCID: PMC3431391  PMID: 22952976
9.  Tidal Flushing Restores the Physiological Condition of Fish Residing in Degraded Salt Marshes 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(9):e46161.
Roads, bridges, and dikes constructed across salt marshes can restrict tidal flow, degrade habitat quality for nekton, and facilitate invasion by non-native plants including Phragmites australis. Introduced P. australis contributes to marsh accretion and eliminates marsh surface pools thereby adversely affecting fish by reducing access to intertidal habitats essential for feeding, reproduction, and refuge. Our study assessed the condition of resident fish populations (Fundulus heteroclitus) at four tidally restricted and four tidally restored marshes in New England invaded by P. australis relative to adjacent reference salt marshes. We used physiological and morphological indicators of fish condition, including proximate body composition (% lipid, % lean dry, % water), recent daily growth rate, age class distributions, parasite prevalence, female gravidity status, length-weight regressions, and a common morphological indicator (Fulton’s K) to assess impacts to fish health. We detected a significant increase in the quantity of parasites infecting fish in tidally restricted marshes but not in those where tidal flow was restored to reduce P. australis cover. Using fish length as a covariate, we found that unparasitized, non-gravid F. heteroclitus in tidally restricted marshes had significantly reduced lipid reserves and increased lean dry (structural) mass relative to fish residing in reference marshes. Fish in tidally restored marshes were equivalent across all metrics relative to those in reference marshes indicating that habitat quality was restored via increased tidal flushing. Reference marshes adjacent to tidally restored sites contained the highest abundance of young fish (ages 0–1) while tidally restricted marshes contained the lowest. Results indicate that F. heteroclitus residing in physically and hydrologically altered marshes are at a disadvantage relative to fish in reference marshes but the effects can be reversed through ecological restoration.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0046161
PMCID: PMC3459893  PMID: 23029423
10.  Jack-and-Master Trait Responses to Elevated CO2 and N: A Comparison of Native and Introduced Phragmites australis 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(10):e42794.
Global change is predicted to promote plant invasions world-wide, reducing biodiversity and ecosystem function. Phenotypic plasticity may influence the ability of introduced plant species to invade and dominate extant communities. However, interpreting differences in plasticity can be confounded by phylogenetic differences in morphology and physiology. Here we present a novel case investigating the role of fitness trait values and phenotypic plasticity to global change factors between conspecific lineages of Phragmites australis. We hypothesized that due to observed differences in the competitive success of North American-native and Eurasian-introduced P. australis genotypes, Eurasian-introduced P. australis would exhibit greater fitness in response to global change factors. Plasticity and plant performance to ambient and predicted levels of carbon dioxide and nitrogen pollution were investigated to understand how invasion pressure may change in North America under a realistic global change scenario. We found that the introduced Eurasian genotype expressed greater mean trait values in nearly every ecophysiological trait measured – aboveground and belowground – to elevated CO2 and nitrogen, outperforming the native North American conspecific by a factor of two to three under every global change scenario. This response is consistent with “jack and master” phenotypic plasticity. We suggest that differences in plant nitrogen productivity, specific leaf area, belowground biomass allocation, and inherently higher relative growth rate are the plant traits that may enhance invasion of Eurasian Phragmites in North America. Given the high degree of genotypic variability within this species, and our limited number of genotypes, our results must be interpreted cautiously. Our study is the first to demonstrate the potential importance of jack-and-master phenotypic plasticity in plant invasions when facing imminent global change conditions. We suggest that jack-and-master invasive genotypes and/or species similar to introduced P. australis will have an increased ecological fitness, facilitating their invasion in both stressful and resource rich environments.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0042794
PMCID: PMC3485286  PMID: 23118844
11.  European Domestic Horses Originated in Two Holocene Refugia 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(3):e18194.
The role of European wild horses in horse domestication is poorly understood. While the fossil record for wild horses in Europe prior to horse domestication is scarce, there have been suggestions that wild populations from various European regions might have contributed to the gene pool of domestic horses. To distinguish between regions where domestic populations are mainly descended from local wild stock and those where horses were largely imported, we investigated patterns of genetic diversity in 24 European horse breeds typed at 12 microsatellite loci. The distribution of high levels of genetic diversity in Europe coincides with the distribution of predominantly open landscapes prior to domestication, as suggested by simulation-based vegetation reconstructions, with breeds from Iberia and the Caspian Sea region having significantly higher genetic diversity than breeds from central Europe and the UK, which were largely forested at the time the first domestic horses appear there. Our results suggest that not only the Eastern steppes, but also the Iberian Peninsula provided refugia for wild horses in the Holocene, and that the genetic contribution of these wild populations to local domestic stock may have been considerable. In contrast, the consistently low levels of diversity in central Europe and the UK suggest that domestic horses in these regions largely derive from horses that were imported from the Eastern refugium, the Iberian refugium, or both.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0018194
PMCID: PMC3068172  PMID: 21479181
12.  Mitochondrial diversity in European and Chinese pigs is consistent with population expansions that occurred prior to domestication 
Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) diversity in European and Asian pigs was assessed using 1536 samples representing 45 European and 21 Chinese breeds. Diagnostic nucleotide differences in the cytochrome b (Cytb) gene between the European and Asian mtDNA variants were determined by pyrosequencing as a rapid screening method. Subsequently, 637 bp of the hypervariable control region was sequenced to further characterize mtDNA diversity. All sequences belonged to the D1 and D2 clusters of pig mtDNA originating from ancestral wild boar populations in Europe and Asia, respectively. The average frequency of Asian mtDNA haplotypes was 29% across European breeds, but varied from 0 to 100% within individual breeds. A neighbour-joining (NJ) tree of control region sequences showed that European and Asian haplotypes form distinct clusters consistent with the independent domestication of pigs in Asia and Europe. The Asian haplotypes found in the European pigs were identical or closely related to those found in domestic pigs from Southeast China. The star-like pattern detected by network analysis for both the European and Asian haplotypes was consistent with a previous demographic expansion. Mismatch analysis supported this notion and suggested that the expansion was initiated before domestication.
doi:10.1098/rspb.2006.3514
PMCID: PMC1634785  PMID: 16790414
pig; mitochondrial DNA; genetic diversity; Cytb gene; control region; population expansion
13.  Mitochondrial DNA variation and language replacements in the Caucasus. 
Sequences of the first hypervariable segment of the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) control region were obtained from 353 individuals representing nine groups and four major linguistic families (Indo-European, Altaic and North and South Caucasian) of the Caucasus region. The diversity within and between Caucasus populations exceeded the diversity within Europe, but was less than that in the Near East. Caucasus populations occupy an intermediate position between European and Near Eastern populations in tree and principal coordinate analyses, suggesting that they are either ancestral to European populations or derived via admixture from European and Near Eastern populations. The genetic relationships among Caucasus populations reflect geographical rather than linguistic relationships. In particular, the Indo-European-speaking Armenians and Altaic-speaking Azerbaijanians are most closely related to their nearest geographical neighbours in the Caucasus, not their linguistic neighbours (i.e. other Indo-European or Altaic populations). The mtDNA evidence thus suggests that the Armenian and Azerbaijanian languages represent instances of language replacement that had little impact on the mtDNA gene pool.
doi:10.1098/rspb.2001.1610
PMCID: PMC1088727  PMID: 11375109
14.  Interspecific Interactions between Phragmites australis and Spartina alterniflora along a Tidal Gradient in the Dongtan Wetland, Eastern China 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e53843.
The invasive species Spartina alterniora Loisel was introduced to the eastern coast of China in the 1970s and 1980s for the purposes of land reclamation and the prevention of soil erosion. The resulting interspecific competition had an important influence on the distribution of native vegetation, which makes studying the patterns and mechanisms of the interactions between Spartina alterniora Loisel and the native species Phragmites australis (Cav.) Trin ex Steud in this region very important. There have been some researches on the interspecific interactions between P. australis and S. alterniora in the Dongtan wetland of Chongming, east China, most of which has focused on the comparison of their physiological characteristics. In this paper, we conducted a neighbor removal experiment along a tidal gradient to evaluate the relative competitive abilities of the two species by calculating their relative neighbor effect (RNE) index. We also looked at the influence of environmental stress and disturbance on the competitive abilities of the two species by comparing interaction strength (I) among different tidal zones both for P. australis and S. alterniora. Finally, we measured physiological characteristics of the two species to assess the physiological mechanisms behind their different competitive abilities. Both negative and positive interactions were found between P. australis and S. alterniora along the environmental gradient. When the direction of the competitive intensity index for P. australis and S. alterniora was consistent, the competitive or facilitative effect of S. alterniora on P. australis was stronger than that of P. australis on S. alterniora. The interspecific interactions of P. australis and S. alterniora varied with environmental conditions, as well as with the method used, to measure interspecific interactions.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0053843
PMCID: PMC3547036  PMID: 23342017
15.  Effects of Spartina alterniflora invasion on the communities of methanogens and sulfate-reducing bacteria in estuarine marsh sediments 
The effect of plant invasion on the microorganisms of soil sediments is very important for estuary ecology. The community structures of methanogens and sulfate-reducing bacteria (SRB) as a function of Spartina alterniflora invasion in Phragmites australis-vegetated sediments of the Dongtan wetland in the Yangtze River estuary, China, were investigated using 454 pyrosequencing and quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR) of the methyl coenzyme M reductase A (mcrA) and dissimilatory sulfite-reductase (dsrB) genes. Sediment samples were collected from two replicate locations, and each location included three sampling stands each covered by monocultures of P. australis, S. alterniflora and both plants (transition stands), respectively. qPCR analysis revealed higher copy numbers of mcrA genes in sediments from S. alterniflora stands than P. australis stands (5- and 7.5-fold more in the spring and summer, respectively), which is consistent with the higher methane flux rates measured in the S. alterniflora stands (up to 8.01 ± 5.61 mg m−2 h−1). Similar trends were observed for SRB, and they were up to two orders of magnitude higher than the methanogens. Diversity indices indicated a lower diversity of methanogens in the S. alterniflora stands than the P. australis stands. In contrast, insignificant variations were observed in the diversity of SRB with the invasion. Although Methanomicrobiales and Methanococcales, the hydrogenotrophic methanogens, dominated in the salt marsh, Methanomicrobiales displayed a slight increase with the invasion and growth of S. alterniflora, whereas the later responded differently. Methanosarcina, the metabolically diverse methanogens, did not vary with the invasion of, but Methanosaeta, the exclusive acetate utilizers, appeared to increase with S. alterniflora invasion. In SRB, sequences closely related to the families Desulfobacteraceae and Desulfobulbaceae dominated in the salt marsh, although they displayed minimal changes with the S. alterniflora invasion. Approximately 11.3 ± 5.1% of the dsrB gene sequences formed a novel cluster that was reduced upon the invasion. The results showed that in the sediments of tidal salt marsh where S. alterniflora displaced P. australis, the abundances of methanogens and SRB increased, but the community composition of methanogens appeared to be influenced more than did the SRB.
doi:10.3389/fmicb.2013.00243
PMCID: PMC3750361  PMID: 23986751
dissimilatory sulfite reductase B (dsrB); methyl coenzyme M reductase A (mcrA); spartina alterniflora; phragmites australis; estuarine marsh
16.  New chloroplast microsatellite markers suitable for assessing genetic diversity of Lolium perenne and other related grass species 
Annals of Botany  2012;110(6):1327-1339.
Background and Aims
Lolium perenne (perennial ryegrass) is the most important forage grass species of temperate regions. We have previously released the chloroplast genome sequence of L. perenne ‘Cashel’. Here nine chloroplast microsatellite markers are published, which were designed based on knowledge about genetically variable regions within the L. perenne chloroplast genome. These markers were successfully used for characterizing the genetic diversity in Lolium and different grass species.
Methods
Chloroplast genomes of 14 Poaceae taxa were screened for mononucleotide microsatellite repeat regions and primers designed for their amplification from nine loci. The potential of these markers to assess genetic diversity was evaluated on a set of 16 Irish and 15 European L. perenne ecotypes, nine L. perenne cultivars, other Lolium taxa and other grass species.
Key Results
All analysed Poaceae chloroplast genomes contained more than 200 mononucleotide repeats (chloroplast simple sequence repeats, cpSSRs) of at least 7 bp in length, concentrated mainly in the large single copy region of the genome. Nucleotide composition varied considerably among subfamilies (with Pooideae biased towards poly A repeats). The nine new markers distinguish L. perenne from all non-Lolium taxa. TeaCpSSR28 was able to distinguish between all Lolium species and Lolium multiflorum due to an elongation of an A8 mononucleotide repeat in L. multiflorum. TeaCpSSR31 detected a considerable degree of microsatellite length variation and single nucleotide polymorphism. TeaCpSSR27 revealed variation within some L. perenne accessions due to a 44-bp indel and was hence readily detected by simple agarose gel electrophoresis. Smaller insertion/deletion events or single nucleotide polymorphisms detected by these new markers could be visualized by polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis or DNA sequencing, respectively.
Conclusions
The new markers are a valuable tool for plant breeding companies, seed testing agencies and the wider scientific community due to their ability to monitor genetic diversity within breeding pools, to trace maternal inheritance and to distinguish closely related species.
doi:10.1093/aob/mcs044
PMCID: PMC3478042  PMID: 22419761
Lolium perenne; perennial ryegrass; Poaceae; chloroplast microsatellite markers; chloroplast genome; genetic diversity
17.  The mystery of Etruscan origins: novel clues from Bos taurus mitochondrial DNA 
The Etruscan culture developed in Central Italy (Etruria) in the first millennium BC and for centuries dominated part of the Italian Peninsula, including Rome. The history of the Etruscans is at the roots of Mediterranean culture and civilization, but their origin is still debated: local or Eastern provenance? To shed light on this mystery, bovine and human mitochondrial DNAs (mtDNAs) have been investigated, based on the well-recognized strict legacy which links human and livestock populations.
In the region corresponding to ancient Etruria (Tuscany, Central Italy), several Bos taurus breeds have been reared since historical times. These breeds have a strikingly high level of mtDNA variation, which is found neither in the rest of Italy nor in Europe. The Tuscan bovines are genetically closer to Near Eastern than to European gene pools and this Eastern genetic signature is paralleled in modern human populations from Tuscany, which are genetically close to Anatolian and Middle Eastern ones.
The evidence collected corroborates the hypothesis of a common past migration: both humans and cattle reached Etruria from the Eastern Mediterranean area by sea. Hence, the Eastern origin of Etruscans, first claimed by the classic historians Herodotus and Thucydides, receives strong independent support. As the Latin philosopher Seneca wrote: Asia Etruscos sibi vindicat (Asia claims the Etruscans back).
doi:10.1098/rspb.2006.0258
PMCID: PMC2189563  PMID: 17301019
Bos taurus; Homo sapiens; mitochondrial DNA; Etruscans; population genetics
18.  Introducing the Algerian Mitochondrial DNA and Y-Chromosome Profiles into the North African Landscape 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e56775.
North Africa is considered a distinct geographic and ethnic entity within Africa. Although modern humans originated in this Continent, studies of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and Y-chromosome genealogical markers provide evidence that the North African gene pool has been shaped by the back-migration of several Eurasian lineages in Paleolithic and Neolithic times. More recent influences from sub-Saharan Africa and Mediterranean Europe are also evident. The presence of East-West and North-South haplogroup frequency gradients strongly reinforces the genetic complexity of this region. However, this genetic scenario is beset with a notable gap, which is the lack of consistent information for Algeria, the largest country in the Maghreb. To fill this gap, we analyzed a sample of 240 unrelated subjects from a northwest Algeria cosmopolitan population using mtDNA sequences and Y-chromosome biallelic polymorphisms, focusing on the fine dissection of haplogroups E and R, which are the most prevalent in North Africa and Europe respectively. The Eurasian component in Algeria reached 80% for mtDNA and 90% for Y-chromosome. However, within them, the North African genetic component for mtDNA (U6 and M1; 20%) is significantly smaller than the paternal (E-M81 and E-V65; 70%). The unexpected presence of the European-derived Y-chromosome lineages R-M412, R-S116, R-U152 and R-M529 in Algeria and the rest of the Maghreb could be the counterparts of the mtDNA H1, H3 and V subgroups, pointing to direct maritime contacts between the European and North African sides of the western Mediterranean. Female influx of sub-Saharan Africans into Algeria (20%) is also significantly greater than the male (10%). In spite of these sexual asymmetries, the Algerian uniparental profiles faithfully correlate between each other and with the geography.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0056775
PMCID: PMC3576335  PMID: 23431392
19.  New Insight into the Colonization Processes of Common Voles: Inferences from Molecular and Fossil Evidence 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(10):e3532.
Elucidating the colonization processes associated with Quaternary climatic cycles is important in order to understand the distribution of biodiversity and the evolutionary potential of temperate plant and animal species. In Europe, general evolutionary scenarios have been defined from genetic evidence. Recently, these scenarios have been challenged with genetic as well as fossil data. The origins of the modern distributions of most temperate plant and animal species could predate the Last Glacial Maximum. The glacial survival of such populations may have occurred in either southern (Mediterranean regions) and/or northern (Carpathians) refugia. Here, a phylogeographic analysis of a widespread European small mammal (Microtus arvalis) is conducted with a multidisciplinary approach. Genetic, fossil and ecological traits are used to assess the evolutionary history of this vole. Regardless of whether the European distribution of the five previously identified evolutionary lineages is corroborated, this combined analysis brings to light several colonization processes of M. arvalis. The species' dispersal was relatively gradual with glacial survival in small favourable habitats in Western Europe (from Germany to Spain) while in the rest of Europe, because of periglacial conditions, dispersal was less regular with bottleneck events followed by postglacial expansions. Our study demonstrates that the evolutionary history of European temperate small mammals is indeed much more complex than previously suggested. Species can experience heterogeneous evolutionary histories over their geographic range. Multidisciplinary approaches should therefore be preferentially chosen in prospective studies, the better to understand the impact of climatic change on past and present biodiversity.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0003532
PMCID: PMC2570793  PMID: 18958287
20.  Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi in a wetland constructed for benzene-, methyl tert-butyl ether- and ammonia-contaminated groundwater bioremediation 
Microbial biotechnology  2012;6(1):80-84.
Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF), which are present in most natural environments, have demonstrated capacity to promote biodegradation of organic pollutants in the greenhouse. However, it is not certain whether AMF can spontaneously establish in phytoremediation systems constructed to decontaminate groundwater, because of the unusual conditions during the construction and operation of such systems. To assess this possibility, root samples from a wetland constructed for the phytoremediation of groundwater contaminated with benzene, methyl tert-butyl ether and ammonia were analysed. Substantial AMF colonization was observed in plant roots sampled close to the inlet of a basin filled with fine gravel and planted with Phragmites australis. In addition, analysis of a fragment of the nuclear large ribosomal subunit, amplified by nested PCR, revealed the presence of AMF molecular operational taxonomic units closely related to Funneliformis mosseae and Rhizophagus irregularis in the samples. These findings demonstrate the capacity of generalist AMF strains to establish spontaneously, rapidly and extensively in groundwater bioremediation technical installations.
doi:10.1111/j.1751-7915.2012.00357.x
PMCID: PMC3815387  PMID: 22846140
21.  Niche differentiation of two sympatric species of Microdochium colonizing the roots of common reed 
BMC Microbiology  2011;11:242.
Background
Fungal endophyte communities are often comprised of many species colonizing the same host. However, little is known about the causes of this diversity. On the one hand, the apparent coexistence of closely related species may be explained by the traditional niche differentiation hypothesis, which suggests that abiotic and/or biotic factors mediate partitioning. For endophytes, such factors are difficult to identify, and are therefore in most cases unknown. On the other hand, there is the neutral hypothesis, which suggests that stochastic factors may explain high species diversity. There is a need to investigate to what extent each of these hypotheses may apply to endophytes.
Results
The niche partitioning of two closely related fungal endophytes, Microdochium bolleyi and M. phragmitis, colonizing Phragmites australis, was investigated. The occurrences of each species were assessed using specific nested-PCR assays for 251 field samples of common reed from Lake Constance, Germany. These analyses revealed niche preferences for both fungi. From three niche factors assessed, i.e. host habitat, host organ and season, host habitat significantly differentiated the two species. M. bolleyi preferred dry habitats, whereas M. phragmitis prevailed in flooded habitats. In contrast, both species exhibited a significant preference for the same host organ, i.e. roots. Likewise the third factor, season, did not significantly distinguish the two species. Differences in carbon utilization and growth temperature could not conclusively explain the niches. The inclusion of three unrelated species of Ascomycota, which also colonize P. australis at the same locations, indicated spatio-temporal niche partitioning between all fungi. None of the species exhibited the same preferences for all three factors, i.e. host habitat, host organ, and time of the season.
Conclusions
The fungal species colonizing common reed investigated in this study seem to exploit niche differences leading to a separation in space and time, which may allow for their coexistence on the same host. A purely neutral model is unlikely to explain the coexistence of closely related endophytes on common reed.
doi:10.1186/1471-2180-11-242
PMCID: PMC3216463  PMID: 22032611
22.  Phylogeography and historical demography of the Lusitanian snail Elona quimperiana reveal survival in unexpected separate glacial refugia 
Background
Present day distributions of Palearctic taxa in northern latitudes mainly result from populations having survived in local patches during the Late Pleistocene and/or from recolonizing populations from southern temperate refugia. If well-studied Mediterranean and eastern European refugia are widely accepted, some recent biogeographical assumptions still remain unclear, such as the occurrence of multiple glacial refugia in Iberia and cryptic refugia in northern Europe during the last glaciations. The Lusitanian snail Elona quimperiana has a remarkably disjunct distribution, limited to northwestern France (Brittany), northwestern Spain and the Basque Country. By describing the phylogeographical structure of this species across its entire range, the present study attempts to identify refugia and subsequent recolonization routes.
Results
Results based on 16S and COI gene sequences showed that the low genetic diversity observed in the Brittany populations should be associated with a recent demographic expansion. By contrast, populations from Spain exhibit several differentiated lineages and are characterized by demographic equilibrium, while the Basque populations are the only ones harboring typical distinct haplotypes. The center of the star-like networks of both gene sequences is occupied by a common ancestral-like haplotype found in Brittany and Spain, which might have originated from the middle of Northern Spain (i.e. Asturias, eastern Lugo and western Cantabria). Estimates of the divergence time between the Spain-Brittany and Basque lineages strongly suggest that E. quimperiana survived the Pleistocene glaciations in distinct refugia on the Iberian Peninsula, one of which is situated in Picos de Europa, and the other in the Basque Country. The occurrence of a northern refugium in France cannot be rejected as of yet.
Conclusion
Present results confirm the Iberian origin of the land snail E. quimperiana and strongly support the emerging phylogeographic hypothesis of multiple refugia in Iberia during the last glaciations. The scenario of a spatial expansion of E. quimperiana from an Iberian refuge located in Asturias to northern areas provides the most probable explanation for the present distribution of this land snail. By harboring distinct haplotypes, the Basque Country populations appear to be of great importance in terms of potential adaptation, long term persistence and hence, the conservation of E. quimperiana.
doi:10.1186/1471-2148-8-339
PMCID: PMC2652461  PMID: 19099565
23.  Cloning of a high-affinity K+ transporter gene PutHKT2;1 from Puccinellia tenuiflora and its functional comparison with OsHKT2;1 from rice in yeast and Arabidopsis 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2009;60(12):3491-3502.
A high-affinity K+ transporter PutHKT2;1 cDNA was isolated from the salt-tolerant plant Puccinellia tenuiflora. Expression of PutHKT2;1 was induced by both 300 mM NaCl and K+-starvation stress in roots, but only slightly regulated by those stresses in shoots. PutHKT2;1 transcript levels in 300 mM NaCl were doubled by the depletion of potassium. Yeast transformed with PutHKT2;1, like those transformed with PhaHKT2;1 from salt-tolerant reed plants (Phragmites australis), (i) were able to take up K+ in low K+ concentration medium or in the presence of NaCl, and (ii) were permeable to Na+. This suggests that PutHKT2;1 has a high affinity K+-Na+ symport function in yeast. Arabidopsis over-expressing PutHKT2;1 showed increased sensitivities to Na+, K+, and Li+, while Arabidopsis over-expressing OsHKT2;1 from rice (Oryza sativa) showed increased sensitivity only to Na+. In contrast to OsHKT2;1, which functions in Na+-uptake at low external K+ concentrations, PutHKT2;1 functions in Na+-uptake at higher external K+ concentrations. These results show that the modes of action of PutHKT2;1 in transgenic yeast and Arabidopsis differ from the mode of action of the closely related OsHKT2;1 transporter.
doi:10.1093/jxb/erp184
PMCID: PMC2724696  PMID: 19528529
Potassium transporter; Puccinellia tenuiflora; PutHKT2;1; salt stress; salt tolerance
24.  Fungal Planet description sheets: 92–106 
Novel species of microfungi described in the present study include the following from Australia: Diaporthe ceratozamiae on Ceratozamia robusta, Seiridium banksiae on Banksia marginata, Phyllosticta hymenocallidicola on Hymenocallis littoralis, Phlogicylindrium uniforme on Eucalyptus cypellocarpa, Exosporium livistonae on Livistona benthamii and Coleophoma eucalyptorum on Eucalyptus piperita. Several species are also described from South Africa, namely: Phoma proteae, Pyrenochaeta protearum and Leptosphaeria proteicola on Protea spp., Phaeomoniella niveniae on Nivenia stokoei, Toxicocladosporium leucadendri on Leucadendron sp. and Scorias leucadendri on Leucadendron muirii. Other species include Myrmecridium phragmitis on Phragmites australis (Netherlands) and Camarographium carpini on Carpinus betulus (Russia). Furthermore, Pseudoidriella syzygii on Syzygium sp. represents a novel genus of hyphomycetes collected in Australia. Morphological and culture characteristics along with ITS DNA barcodes are provided for all taxa.
doi:10.3767/003158511X617561
PMCID: PMC3251320  PMID: 22403481
ITS DNA barcodes; LSU; novel fungal species; systematics
25.  How unique is the tiger beetle fauna (Coleoptera, Cicindelidae) of the Balkan Peninsula?  
ZooKeys  2011;487-502.
The tiger beetle fauna of the Balkan Peninsula is one of the richest in Europe and includes 19 species or 41% of the European tiger beetle fauna. Assembled by their biogeographical origins, the Balkan tiger beetle species fall into 14 different groups that include, Mediterranean, Middle Oriental, Central Asiatic, Euro-Siberian, South and East European, Pannonian-Sarmatian, West Palaearctic, Turano-European and Afrotropico Indo-Mediterranean species. The Mediterranean Sclerophyl and the Pontian Steppe are the Balkan biogeographical provinces with the highest species richness, while the Balkan Highlands has the lowest Cicindelidae diversity. Most species are restricted to single habitat types in lowland areas of the Balkan Peninsula and only Calomera aulica aulica and Calomera littoralis nemoralis occur in respectively 3 and 4 different types of habitat. About 60% of all Balkan Cicindelidae species are found in habitats potentially endangered by human activity.
doi:10.3897/zookeys.100.1542
PMCID: PMC3131033  PMID: 21738429
Balkan Peninsula; biodiversity; distribution; Europe; zoogeography

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