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Population history provides foundational knowledge for utilizing and developing native plant restoration materials

September 13, 2018

A species’ population structure and history are critical pieces of information that can help guide the use of available native plant materials in restoration treatments and decide what new native plant materials should be developed to meet future restoration needs. In the western United States, Pseudoroegneria spicata (bluebunch wheatgrass; Poaceae) is an important component of grassland and shrubland plant communities and commonly used for restoration due to its drought resistance and competitiveness with exotic weeds. We used next‐generation sequencing data to investigate the processes that shaped P. spicata's geographic pattern of genetic variation across the Intermountain West. Pseudoroegneria spicata's genetic diversity is partitioned into populations that likely differentiated since the Last Glacial Maximum. Adjacent populations display varying magnitudes of historical gene flow, with migration rates ranging from multiple migrants per generation to multiple generations per migrant. When considering the commercial germplasm sources available for restoration, genetic identities remain representative of the wildland localities from which germplasm sources were originally developed, and they maintain high levels of heterozygosity and nucleotide diversity. However, the commercial germplasm sources represent a small fraction of the overall genetic diversity of P. spicata in the Intermountain West. Given the low migration rates and long divergence times between some pairs of P. spicata populations, using commercial germplasm sources could facilitate undesirable restoration outcomes when used in certain geographic areas, even if the environment in which the commercial materials thrive is similar to that of the restoration site. As such, population structure and history can be used to provide guidance on what geographic areas may need additional native plant materials so that restoration efforts support species and community resilience and improve outcomes.

Publication Year 2018
Title Population history provides foundational knowledge for utilizing and developing native plant restoration materials
DOI 10.1111/eva.12704
Authors Robert Massatti, Holly R. Prendeville, Steve Larson, Bryce A. Richardson, Blair Waldron, Francis F. Kilkenny
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Evolutionary Applications
Index ID 70199246
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Southwest Biological Science Center