Genetic differentiation of submerged plant populations and taxa between habitats
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Ceratophyllum spp., Callitriche spp., Zannichellia spp. and Potamogeton pectinatus L. are widespread submerged macrophyte species, often occurring at high abundance and forming an integral part of the vegetation of many types of shallow aquatic systems. Several species occur in both freshwater and brackish water habitats. Most have a mixed reproduction system and can reproduce sexually by seeds and propagate asexually by rhizomes, turions, root tubers or axillary tubers. It is hypothesized that sexual propagules are more important than vegetative fragments to ensure long-distance-dispersal, which in case of frequent bird or water flow-mediated dispersal should lead to lowered genetic differentiation. At a regional level, we used dominant ISSR markers in a multi-species approach and observed the largest clonal differentiation between brackish water and freshwater populations of the western European lowland (Belgium). Differentiation was pronounced at taxon level (e.g. Zannichellia), as a salinity gradient (P. pectinatus) or as a coastal-to-inland conductivity gradient (Callitriche obtusangula). These differences and trends suggested a very limited dispersal at regional level across both habitats and regions. To test the hypothesis whether vegetative reproduction and dispersal may have an important function in maintenance of the species at local scale, we investigated the microsatellite diversity and clonal distribution within and between populations of P. pectinatus from a single catchment, representing upstream forest ponds and downstream river sites along the Woluwe (Brussels, Belgium). Clonal diversity was low on average, however, with a higher number of multilocus genotypes in upstream forest ponds than in downstream river sites. A few but abundant clones were present along various stretches of the river indicating clonal spread and establishment over larger distances within the river. Clonal dispersal at a local scale was more pronounced in river than in pond habitats, indicating a higher relative importance of water flow than bird-mediated dispersal for establishment of P. pectinatus in river sites. Dispersal of seeds and establishment of seedlings were assumed more effective within ponds than in river habitats. Upstream forest ponds can be regarded as source populations and refuges of clonal diversity for recolonization of the more stressful downstream river habitat.
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- Genetic differentiation of submerged plant populations and taxa between habitats
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