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1.  Exploring the borders of European Phragmites within a cosmopolitan genus 
AoB Plants  2012;2012:pls020.
European Phragmites australis is one of four main cp-DNA haplotype clusters present worldwide. The European gene pool extends from North America to Far East Asia and South Africa. Extensive gene flow occurs only within the temperate region of Europe.
Background and aims
Two Phragmites australis taxa are recognized in Europe: P. australis ssp. altissimus, also known as Phragmites isiaca, in the Mediterranean region and P. australis in the temperate region. Another taxonomic group in the Mediterranean is Phragmites frutescens. European genotypes are diverse genetically, cytologically and morphologically, and are related to African, Asiatic and American genotypes. We investigated chloroplast DNA (cpDNA) diversity in Europe and defined the current borders of the European gene pool.
Methodology
We analysed chloroplast variation with parsimony and genetic distance methods, and compared it with that of nuclear amplified fragment length polymorphism and microsatellites. We also investigated the phenological pattern of 188 genotypes collected worldwide in a common garden in Denmark. We assumed that non-flowering genotypes could indicate climatic, geographic and/or reproductive barriers to dispersal and would have been recorded in the genetic pattern as groups genetically isolated from, or within, the European pool.
Principal results
The European P. australis gene pool extends from North America to the Far East and South Africa. However, African and North American genotypes are differentiating from the European genotypes. Mediterranean P. australis is genetically different from temperate P. australis and shares several similarities with Phragmites mauritianus in Africa and Phragmites karka in Asia. Phragmites frutescens shares the cpDNA sequences with both these tropical species. Two DNA bands can distinguish Mediterranean P. australis from P. frutescens and P. mauritianus and from temperate P. australis, and reveal possible hybrids among these species in the Mediterranean region. Phenological data confirmed possible gene flow within the temperate region of Europe, whereas the Mediterranean genotypes did not set inflorescences in Denmark, suggesting reproductive barriers between temperate and Mediterranean P. australis.
Conclusions
European P. australis appears as one of four main Phragmites groups known in the world. Further research is needed to understand the implications of long-distance dispersal at the population level.
doi:10.1093/aobpla/pls020
PMCID: PMC3435523  PMID: 22962631
2.  Invasion strategies in clonal aquatic plants: are phenotypic differences caused by phenotypic plasticity or local adaptation? 
Annals of Botany  2010;106(5):813-822.
Background and Aims
The successful spread of invasive plants in new environments is often linked to multiple introductions and a diverse gene pool that facilitates local adaptation to variable environmental conditions. For clonal plants, however, phenotypic plasticity may be equally important. Here the primary adaptive strategy in three non-native, clonally reproducing macrophytes (Egeria densa, Elodea canadensis and Lagarosiphon major) in New Zealand freshwaters were examined and an attempt was made to link observed differences in plant morphology to local variation in habitat conditions.
Methods
Field populations with a large phenotypic variety were sampled in a range of lakes and streams with different chemical and physical properties. The phenotypic plasticity of the species before and after cultivation was studied in a common garden growth experiment, and the genetic diversity of these same populations was also quantified.
Key Results
For all three species, greater variation in plant characteristics was found before they were grown in standardized conditions. Moreover, field populations displayed remarkably little genetic variation and there was little interaction between habitat conditions and plant morphological characteristics.
Conclusions
The results indicate that at the current stage of spread into New Zealand, the primary adaptive strategy of these three invasive macrophytes is phenotypic plasticity. However, while limited, the possibility that genetic diversity between populations may facilitate ecotypic differentiation in the future cannot be excluded. These results thus indicate that invasive clonal aquatic plants adapt to new introduced areas by phenotypic plasticity. Inorganic carbon, nitrogen and phosphorous were important in controlling plant size of E. canadensis and L. major, but no other relationships between plant characteristics and habitat conditions were apparent. This implies that within-species differences in plant size can be explained by local nutrient conditions. All together this strongly suggests that invasive clonal aquatic plants adapt to a wide range of habitats in introduced areas by phenotypic plasticity rather than local adaptation.
doi:10.1093/aob/mcq176
PMCID: PMC2958791  PMID: 20826438
Alien weeds; biological invasion; clonal plants; Egeria densa; Elodea canadensis; establishment; genetic diversity; Lagarosiphon major; local adaptation; macrophytes; morphometric characters; phenotypic plasticity
3.  Genetic diversity in three invasive clonal aquatic species in New Zealand 
BMC Genetics  2010;11:52.
Background
Elodea canadensis, Egeria densa and Lagarosiphon major are dioecious clonal species which are invasive in New Zealand and other regions. Unlike many other invasive species, the genetic variation in New Zealand is very limited. Clonal reproduction is often considered an evolutionary dead end, even though a certain amount of genetic divergence may arise due to somatic mutations. The successful growth and establishment of invasive clonal species may be explained not by adaptability but by pre-existing ecological traits that prove advantageous in the new environment. We studied the genetic diversity and population structure in the North Island of New Zealand using AFLPs and related the findings to the number of introductions and the evolution that has occurred in the introduced area.
Results
Low levels of genetic diversity were found in all three species and appeared to be due to highly homogeneous founding gene pools. Elodea canadensis was introduced in 1868, and its populations showed more genetic structure than those of the more recently introduced of E. densa (1946) and L. major (1950). Elodea canadensis and L. major, however, had similar phylogeographic patterns, in spite of the difference in time since introduction.
Conclusions
The presence of a certain level of geographically correlated genetic structure in the absence of sexual reproduction, and in spite of random human dispersal of vegetative propagules, can be reasonably attributed to post-dispersal somatic mutations. Direct evidence of such evolutionary events is, however, still insufficient.
doi:10.1186/1471-2156-11-52
PMCID: PMC2902404  PMID: 20565861
4.  Seasonal sea ice cover as principal driver of spatial and temporal variation in depth extension and annual production of kelp in Greenland 
Global Change Biology  2012;18(10):2981-2994.
We studied the depth distribution and production of kelp along the Greenland coast spanning Arctic to sub-Arctic conditions from 78 °N to 64 °N. This covers a wide range of sea ice conditions and water temperatures, with those presently realized in the south likely to move northwards in a warmer future. Kelp forests occurred along the entire latitudinal range, and their depth extension and production increased southwards presumably in response to longer annual ice-free periods and higher water temperature. The depth limit of 10% kelp cover was 9–14 m at the northernmost sites (77–78 °N) with only 94–133 ice-free days per year, but extended to depths of 21–33 m further south (73 °N–64 °N) where >160 days per year were ice-free, and annual production of Saccharina longicruris and S. latissima, measured as the size of the annual blade, ranged up to sevenfold among sites. The duration of the open-water period, which integrates light and temperature conditions on an annual basis, was the best predictor (relative to summer water temperature) of kelp production along the latitude gradient, explaining up to 92% of the variation in depth extension and 80% of the variation in kelp production. In a decadal time series from a high Arctic site (74 °N), inter-annual variation in sea ice cover also explained a major part (up to 47%) of the variation in kelp production. Both spatial and temporal data sets thereby support the prediction that northern kelps will play a larger role in the coastal marine ecosystem in a warmer future as the length of the open-water period increases. As kelps increase carbon-flow and habitat diversity, an expansion of kelp forests may exert cascading effects on the coastal Arctic ecosystem.
doi:10.1111/j.1365-2486.2012.02765.x
PMCID: PMC3597251
Arctic; climate change; depth limit; kelp; production; sea ice cover

Results 1-4 (4)