Biological Invasions

, Volume 18, Issue 9, pp 2463–2474 | Cite as

What happens in Vegas, better stay in Vegas: Phragmites australis hybrids in the Las Vegas Wash

  • Kristin Saltonstall
  • Adam M. Lambert
  • Nick Rice


While hybridization between Native and Introduced Phragmites australis has not been documented across much of North America, it poses an ongoing threat to Native P. australis across its range. This is especially true for native populations in the biologically rich, but sparsely distributed wetlands of the southwest United States, which are among the most imperiled systems in North America. We identified multiple Hybrid P. australis stands in the Las Vegas Wash watershed, NV, a key regional link to the Colorado River basin. Rapid urbanization in this watershed has caused striking changes in water and nutrient inputs and the distribution of wetland habitats has also changed, with urban wetlands expanding but an overall reduction in wetland habitats regionally. Native P. australis has likely been present in the Wash wetland community in low abundance for thousands of years, but today Hybrid and Native plants dominate the shoreline along much of the Wash. In contrast, Introduced P. australis is rare, suggesting that opportunities for novel hybridization events remain uncommon. Hybrid crosses derived from both the native and introduced maternal lineages are widespread, although the conditions that precluded their establishment are unknown and we did not find evidence for backcrossing. Spread of Hybrid plants is likely associated with flooding events as well as restoration activities, including revegetation efforts and construction for erosion control, that have redistributed sediments containing P. australis rhizomes. Downstream escape of Hybrid plants to Lake Mead and wetlands throughout the lower Colorado River basin is of management concern as these Hybrids appear vigorous and could spread rapidly.


Hybridization Invasion Desert cpDNA Microsatellite Anthropogenic disturbance Clonal spread 



We thank the Southern Nevada Water Authority and Clark County Parks and Recreation for funding this project, and R. Long and T. Dudley for assistance with sample collection and preparation. Two reviewers provided helpful comments.

Supplementary material

10530_2016_1167_MOESM1_ESM.xlsx (51 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (XLSX 50 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland (outside the USA) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kristin Saltonstall
    • 1
  • Adam M. Lambert
    • 2
  • Nick Rice
    • 3
  1. 1.Smithsonian Tropical Research InstituteBalboa, AnconRepublic of Panama
  2. 2.Marine Science InstituteUniversity of CaliforniaSanta BarbaraUSA
  3. 3.Southern Nevada Water AuthorityLas VegasUSA

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