Original Paper

Wetlands Ecology and Management

, Volume 21, Issue 5, pp 339-351

First online:

Maximising adaptive potential in translocated populations of clonal saltmarsh plants: a case study on Wilsonia backhousei, Convolvulaceae

  • Karen SommervilleAffiliated withSchool of the Environment, University of Technology SydneyNational Herbarium of New South Wales, The Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain TrustThe Australian Botanic Garden Email author 
  • , Maurizio RossettoAffiliated withNational Herbarium of New South Wales, The Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust
  • , Alex PulkownikAffiliated withSchool of the Environment, University of Technology Sydney

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We investigated the implications of clonality for translocation of Wilsonia backhousei, a threatened, outbreeding, saltmarsh plant with tidally-dispersed fruit. Eight microsatellite loci were used to characterise samples from three estuaries in New South Wales, Australia, and to determine the size and distribution of genetically distinct individuals (genets). Within-population diversity was compared to the presence or absence of seed production using the t test. Ordinal logistic regression was used to investigate the relative influence on seed yield of soil characteristics (soil moisture, salinity, pH) and the number of clonal lineages within a 5 and 10 m radius. Principal coordinate analysis, analysis of molecular variance and Bayesian analysis were used to investigate the extent of gene flow within and among the three estuaries. We found individual genets could cover extensive areas (up to 225 m2) and apparently large populations could consist of only a few individuals. Populations that failed to produce seed had significantly less genetic diversity than populations that produced seed (P = 0.001). Seed yield showed a significant positive response to both increasing soil moisture content (P = 0.003) and increasing genetic diversity in a 5 m radius (P = 0.003). Gene flow was found to occur chiefly within estuaries though occasional longer-distance gene transfer was evident. To maximise adaptive potential in translocated populations of W. backhousei, we recommend sourcing propagules from multiple populations and planting representatives of the different populations in close proximity to facilitate sexual reproduction. These findings are likely to be applicable to other outbreeding clonal saltmarsh plants with tidally-dispersed fruit or seed.


Adaptation Clonality Genetic diversity Restoration Saltmarsh Translocation