, Volume 15, Issue 12, pp 2717-2730

Hybridization and introgression between the exotic Siberian elm, Ulmus pumila, and the native Field elm, U. minor, in Italy

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In response to the first Dutch elm disease (DED) pandemic, Siberian elm, Ulmus pumila, was planted to replace the native elm, U. minor, in Italy. The potential for hybridization between these two species is high and repeated hybridization could result in the genetic swamping of the native species and facilitate the evolution of invasiveness in the introduced species. We used genetic markers to examine the extent of hybridization between these two species and to determine the pattern of introgression. We quantified and compared the level of genetic diversity between the hybrids and the two parental species. Hybrids between U. pumila and U. minor were common. The pattern of introgression was not as strongly biased towards U. pumila as was previously observed for hybrids between U. rubra and U. pumila in the United States. The levels of heterozygosity were similar between U. minor and the hybrids and both groups had higher levels of heterozygosity relative to U. pumila. The programs Structure and NewHybrids indicated the presence of first- (F1) and second- generation (F2) hybrids and of backcrosses in the hybrid population. The presence of healthy DED resistant U. minor individuals combined with the self-compatibility of U. minor could help explain the presence of F2 individuals in Italy. The presence of F2 individuals, where most of the variability present in the hybrids will be released, could facilitate rapid evolution and the potential evolution of invasiveness of U. pumila in Italy.